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Last March saw the first employment specialists commencing their work as part of the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) regional try-out being jointly implemented by HUS Psychiatry and the Uusimaa TE Office. The specialists were recruited through both HUS and TE Office job advertisements, and the range of multi-skilled professionals selected for the work included nurses, bachelors of social services, occupational therapists, educational scientists and marketing experts.

Individual Placement and Support, or ‘Sijoita ja Valmenna’ in Finnish, is a supported employment model that promotes the employment of people with serious mental illness in the open labour market. The jobs are sought out based on the preferences, competence, strengths and interests of the client. The employment specialist supports the client in all stages of the process, including looking for employment, starting work, succeeding at work, and managing life outside of work. In this way, a jobseeker receives individually tailored support to find a job that is suitable for them. The employer, on the other hand, receives a skilled and motivated employee who matches its recruitment needs.

IPS was originally developed in the USA as the Supported Employment (SE) model. Today, IPS is in wide international use. In other Nordic countries, the model has been in use for over a decade. According to international studies, approximately one in three people find employment through IPS, which makes it two to three times more effective than comparable services.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare is now coordinating a broad development project package to support the implementation of the IPS model in Finland. At the same time, an extensive evaluation study will also be carried out. The project is part of the national mental health strategy. The regional try-out being implemented jointly by HUS Psychiatry and the Uusimaa TE Office has received project funding from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, and the project’s 18 employment specialists and two team leaders are working in close cooperation with the HUS Psychiatry Outpatient Clinic covering the whole of Uusimaa except the Helsinki region.

There is little need to emphasise what an important change we are dealing with in this project. Mental health disorders are one of the most common reasons in Finland for long-term sick leave, disability pensions and unstable careers. This should not be the case. Mental health disorders are not an obstacle to work, but the world of work does not offer equal opportunities. Through the project, we can prove that work is an important part of recovery. Everyone should have the right to gainful employment!