Work and Mental Health (2010–11)

This was a commissioned research project, the purpose of which was to account for managers' experiences of welcoming people with severe mental illness into the work place.

The project was commissioned by the National Strategic Plan for Work and Mental Health in the period 2010–2011.  For this project on work-life participation for people with mental illness, we recruited managers who had been cooperating with the vocational rehabilitation project "Prescription for occupation" which operates on a model provided by the Individual Placement and Support (IPS), which NAV is considering to implement on a large scale.

Through Q-methodology the steps used by 13 managers to sort out 30 statements relative to each other, were analyzed. Two distinct viewpoints emerged: "Development Potential in the community" and "Mental Illness; mutual learning ". The correlation between the two views was, however, significant, suggesting that many respondents share the same views. To elaborate on these views, seven research interviews with the same informants were conducted and analysed.

The view "Development potential in the community" is characterized by managers who have confidence in the work environment and the participants themselves and who believe in transparency, collaboration, and that everyone should be treated equally. They have an inclusive and a low degree of stigmatizing views of the participants. Self-confidence can be identified in these managers, a self-confidence that is related to belief in transparency and the work environment's ability to help the participants. It appears in that within this view there is less emphasis on the mental disorder, and instead an effort to not make any distinction between the participant and other staff.

The view "Mental disorder; mutual learning "is characterized by managers who want to learn more about mental illness, get the most information about the participant`s needs in order to provide the best possible help. This view is characterized by a quest for help and support from the outside, and the attitude is perhaps more personal /individual-oriented. One is concerned with the participant's needs and that each is individually treated.

The informants as a group showed an inclusive attitude and believed that people with mental illness should be able to get internships in regular employing organizations. A key finding of the project was a relatively strong agreement among managers that they had evolved as leaders by having participants with mental health issues in work practice, and that the whole organization had a lot to learn from this. That the manager and other employees found having interns in work practices positive and stimulating is likely to contribute to taking the work practice course in a positive direction. Hence one can see the outlines of a win – win situation for both the workplace and the participant.


Managers believed that prerequisites for the participant to succeed with their internship were:
• a desire to succeed; managers, colleagues and the participants themselves.
• close cooperation with the participant.
• challenges for the participant must come in customizable "doses", important to follow the participant's pace.
• patience when cooperating
• a realistic timeframe
• ordinary work must be the goal

Project Manager: Ellen Ramvi

Project Coordinator: Linn Farstad

Project reports:

Ramvi, E., & Farstad, L. (2011). Work and mental health: a qualitative study of managers' experiences with having young adults with mental illness in work practices. University of Stavanger, report no. 30, 2011.
What the leader wants – he accomplishes. Linn Farstad (2011). Master thesis.