There have been a few articles in the news lately about the challenges people with mental disabilities or illnesses can face in finding and keeping employment. The Los Angeles Times recently published an article that tells the stories of several veterans who live in San Diego or Southern California who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injuries. Symptoms of PTSD or a brain injury can include memory lapses, severe headaches, poor concentration, slurred speech, a short temper and anxiety in crowds.
Many of the veterans interviewed said that employers are hesitant to hire them if they mention that they have brain injuries or PTSD. Unlike those missing a limb, veterans with these “invisible wounds” who are hired often face misunderstanding of their condition at work or skepticism about their injuries, such as an employer questioning why they have to leave work for a doctor’s appointment.
Many groups work with veterans and employers to encourage the hiring of veterans with invisible wounds. The U.S. departments of Veterans Affairs, Labor and Defense are working to show employers that they can hire veterans with PTSD or brain injuries and that it takes little expense to provide simple accommodations.
The Department of Labor set up a website to help employers understand what they can do to accommodate a veteran’s mental health issues: America’s Heroes at Work. People who work to place veterans in the workplace say that it is partly up to the veteran to understand their condition and be able to communicate what they need to their employer. Accommodations may be as simple as more frequent short breaks or a white noise machine to limit distractions, which can be obtained from the V.A.’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service.
Many veterans with PTSD struggle to find supportive employment (Los Angeles Times)