Recovery to Reintegration through Employment Support

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Avi was a university grad in his early 30s with a diagnosed mental illness, who found himself attempting suicide triggered by his divorce and estrangement from his young daughter. After his release from a psychiatric hospital, he was still in a lost state with no job or place to live. As part of a team of multidisciplined medical and social services, Chimes Israel’s Shiluv program supported Avi with employment rehabilitation. With the Shiluv employment counselor’s guidance, Avi found himself an entry-level position at a bank. From there, he started to rebuild his life. He found a place to live and his relationship with his daughter improved. As time went on, with the help of Shiluv’s job counselors and the bank’s professional development program, he rose within the bank’s ranks every few years. When his troubled teen daughter decided to live with him after a rift with her mother, Shiluv helped him learn how to manage the work-life balance. Shiluv also helped him map out a career plan toward eventual retirement. He now owns an apartment; lives happily with his daughter; and now after more than 15 years of support, he has told Shiluv he no longer needs their help.   

Osnat Mader Willensky, one of the two managers responsible for professional guidance at Shiluv (whose name translates to “Community Integration”) says that like Avi, the typical Shiluv clients are those who have undergone psychiatric hospitalization, been released, and now need to get their lives back on track. Israel’s National Insurance Institute (Bituach Leumi) will classify the clients as eligible for a disability pension as well as vocational rehabilitation, which involve studies, financing, and job placement. The State’s Social Services provide an array of services including a case worker from the Ministry of Health and a team of a social workers, who help the person live in the community. Shiluv works with all of them.

Shiluv’s six employment counselors and two managers, provide Individual Placement and Support (IPS), for integration into the competitive employment market. The program serves 130 people from the center of Tel Aviv to as north as Netanya and south as Rehovot. After they assess each client’s abilities, interests, and career expectations, they support them through the entire process of getting a job. Nothing is done for them — it’s just guidance along the way. They learn to build a CV, prepare for job interviews, and find jobs through the internet. 

After the person is employed, Shiluv continues its support through counseling and mediation, invariably to make the work environment more accessible for the client. “Often they are not able communicate or see a solution for an on-the-job challenge,” said Mader Willensky. “Someone with a lot of noise in their head may need a quiet work space. Someone may need a shorter day or more flexibility, and another may need a more set routine.” 

Shiluv’s clients typically suffer from schizophrenia, severe depression, complex PTSD, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Mental disorders can be chronic, temporary or one-off, and can appear in varying levels of severity. They can have psychotic disorders of various intensities including hallucinations, delusions and a disordered perception of reality.

 “Typically, we don’t focus on the psychiatric diagnosis,” said Mader Wilensky. “Our emphasis is on their abilities, not their disabilities. What matters is whether the person has active symptoms that might hinder our collaboration and their job performance. The real question is how they manage their symptoms. Most people want to feel well and thrive. If they manage their symptoms and know how to get assistance, it’s enough to get their career journey on its way. When, as it sometimes happen, there are set backs, we help them to get better by supporting them and by directing them to additional services that can help them on the right track.”

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