The Transition RTC focuses on the school-to-work transition for transition age youth and young adults with serious mental health conditions, thus our studies inform interventions that support successes in this critical transition. Because this field of research is in its infancy there is little research upon which to base the design of new interventions. Additionally, system issues often present many barriers to offering appropriate interventions for this population. Thus, part of our research framework is to conduct studies that simultaneously contribute to intervention development from three approaches;
- population studies of transition age youth and young adults with serious mental health conditions and their circumstances,
- studies of systems in which interventions are placed, and
- direct studies of interventions themselves
Our studies also reflect recognition that within the school-to-work transition there are many smaller and often overlapping steps. Therefore this program of research examines two stages of education/training:
- completion of secondary education and post secondary schooling/training, and
- two stages of employment: initiation of work life, and establishment of work life
Young adults (between ages 18-30) with mental health conditions experience high rates of unemployment, even though a majority of them want to work and have careers. Like their age-related peers, they perceive employment and career development as opportunities to be self-sufficient and become valued members of society. Unfortunately, research has not identified any vocational intervention and support that effectively promotes these employment outcomes.
Young adults with mental health conditions are increasingly finding rewarding work as peer recovery workers/mentors (PRW). PRW is a general term referring to people in recovery from mental health and/or addictions issues who use self-disclosure to provide people with direct emotional support, aid in developing a recovery plan, and help navigating the health system. Employment as PRWs appear to introduce young adults PRWs to various career paths, as evidenced by those who have moved on to different jobs in mental health (as a peer or not), other health-related jobs, and/or higher education.
The purpose of this pilot study is to identify the facilitators of and barriers to the employment of young adults as PRWs. We plan to conduct focus groups at two (2) provider sites that employ (as staff or consultants) a number of young adult PRWs. At each of those sites, there will be one focus group for the PRWs and one for supervisors and overseers of PRWs. Jonathan Delman, the Principle Investigator, will work with the interested mental health programs to coordinate the focus groups. Focus groups will be scheduled at the convenience of the participants with respect for their schedules.
This study is being sponsored by the Learning & Working During the Transition to Adulthood Rehabilitation Research & Training Center (RTC), at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The RTC's aims include conducting research to improve the poor employment outcomes for young adults with mental health conditions, as well as the potential for career growth. The RTC and this study are funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).