Schizophrenia is a lifelong mental health condition that has the main symptoms of psychosis and interpreting reality abnormally.

Further symptoms associated with the condition include:

  • Hallucinations: Seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there
  • Delusions: Believing things that aren’t true, e.g. that you are being stalked or that you are a celebrity
  • Disorganised thinking and speech: Effective communication is difficult and sometimes speech can be entirely random, known as “word salad
  • Abnormal motor behaviour: Agitation, child-like movement, and unusual posture
  • Poor daily functioning: Often an inability to keep up with basic hygiene, cooking, and everyday tasks
  • Difficulty with social interaction: Including avoiding social interactions altogether
  • Low energy and fatigue: Sometimes people with schizophrenia can enter a state which is known as “catatonia”.

People with schizophrenia need lifelong care and support. This can include medication, mental health community support, counselling, and psychiatric care. How schizophrenia affects every person with the condition will be different and not everyone will experience the same symptoms. However, for everyone with schizophrenia, the mental health condition is severe and qualifies as a disability in the U.K. 

As such, people with schizophrenia will need extra support when it comes to getting a job and working safely. Similarly, employers of people with schizophrenia will need support and guidance so that they can provide the best care possible to their employees.

Under The Equality Act (2010), disabilities must be treated appropriately in recruitment and employment. If not, this can count as disability discrimination and is illegal under U.K. law. Therefore, it is important that both sides of the equation know:

  • their rights
  • what they are entitled to
  • what they have to do,
  • what support is out there

On this page of our Disability Advice Hub, we are going to provide information to people with schizophrenia both looking for work and in work, and for employers employing people with schizophrenia. Starting with the former.

Managing Schizophrenia at Work

There are many misconceptions about schizophrenia. Many people might think that people with the condition will never be able to work. Some might think people with the condition can’t contribute fully to society. Some people might even think that having schizophrenia makes you more likely to be violent.

All of these thoughts come from ableism, mental health stigma, stereotypes, and lack of education.

People with schizophrenia can absolutely work, and they can hold down long-term jobs. They are also statistically more likely to be victims of a crime rather than commit violence themselves, and so that misconception is unjustified too.

If you have schizophrenia and want to work, there are lots of jobs you can do. Your skills and interests should determine your job, not your disability. You should do a job that you want to do rather than picking something because you don’t think you can do anything else.

Support You Are Entitled To

As schizophrenia is classified as a mental health disability, you are entitled to support during recruitment and employment. Employers are required to make any reasonable adjustments necessary so that you can be on an even playing field with other candidates and employees.

One of the best things you can do as someone with a mental health disability is to familiarise yourself with The Equality Act and what it means for you. You should also check out the Access to Work scheme to see what financial help you can get for support relating to interviews and further work.

For now, the main points to know are:

  • You are entitled to extra support as a disabled person. This support should make sure that you have the same opportunities for recruitment and employment as a non-disabled person.
  • Where possible, employers are required to make reasonable adjustments by law.
  • Access to Work and other schemes may help provide financial support for you or your employer to help you get what you need.
  • You cannot be treated any differently in recruitment or employment because you are disabled. No decisions can be made due to your disability status. If they are, this is illegal discrimination.

Reasonable Adjustments That Can Help

When it comes to getting and keeping a job, how you manage your schizophrenia symptoms will depend on what works best for you. Some options that people find successful include:

  • Working flexi-time or part-time so you can get plenty of rest in-between shifts
  • Working in a simplified environment without clutter or excessive distraction
  • Taking medication as instructed
  • Taking ample breaks
  • Keeping a healthy diet with regular meals
  • Practising CBT coping strategies
  • Reaching out for support from others.

In regards to reaching out for support from others, your best options are your work’s HR department, your manager, your local GP, and registered charities that work with mental health.

People with schizophrenia sometimes struggle with suicidal thoughts. If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, please contact your GP and a helpline who can help you at any time, such as Samaritans.

Schizophrenia Awareness For Employers

If you are employing someone with schizophrenia, you need to be aware of how you can best support them.

As we have mentioned already, supporting employees with schizophrenia is essential under U.K. employment law.  You need to make sure that they have everything they need to do their work to the same standard as their non-disabled peers. You also need to make sure that they feel comfortable and safe in your work environment. This is usually a matter of making reasonable adjustments.

Outside of reasonable adjustments, the most important things you can do as an accessible employer are:

  • Listen openly
  • Do your own research and learning
  • Consult specific training if needs be
  • Liaise with external resources for support
  • Be patient and understanding
  • Commit to making your work environment as inclusive and accessible as possible.

With the right support and adjustments, people with schizophrenia can work happily for a long time.

Everyone should have equal access to work and becoming a Disability-Friendly employer helps those opportunities come to life. You can find the right tools you need for this right here on Careers with Disabilities.