The late John G. Gunderson, MD, a pioneer in the diagnosis, treatment, and research of BPD, and founder of the McLean program bearing his name, promoted the relevance of work in patients with BPD. He noted the positive impact that employment had on patients’ emotional growth and well-being.
Working not only promotes growth and stability in those with BPD but also across mental health conditions. The Veterans Affairs Administration offers a compensated work therapy program for veterans experiencing a range of mental health conditions.
The program connects veterans to workplaces that match their strengths, skills, and needs as a way to build resilience and bring experienced employees to workplaces.
Jacob says she has seen many patients flourish once they engaged in the workforce.
One individual, who struggled with BPD, narcissistic personality disorder, PTSD, and substance use, encountered many obstacles throughout her treatment in a residential program. She managed to address the core issues that led to her impulsivity and substance use.
Once she completed her program, Jacob says, she found employment, and while the job was not quite the right fit, it provided structure and stability.
“Not only was she able to develop significant connections with her colleagues while at work, but she learned to regulate her emotions in the context of inevitable obstacles in the workplace,” Jacobs shares.
“It led to her feeling more competent. Eventually, it led her to seek out a job in line with her long-term career goals. This was her stepping-stone to stability.”
Considerations of Disclosure
Though working can be helpful for those with mental health conditions, it can be difficult to navigate.
In general, employees are protected against discrimination when disclosing mental health issues in the workplace under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.
These rights are protected by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to ensure employers understand their responsibilities and that employees understand their rights.
“These guidelines promote equal rights for employees who disclose mental health disability, assuming that the employee can reasonably perform at work and is not a threat to themselves or coworkers,” Jacob says.