Konekt Consultant Leads the Way in Improving the Success of Mental Health Programmes

Kate Coombes

Konekt Senior Consultant Kate Coombes

Konekt prides itself on the depth of staff knowledge of workplace health solutions. It is a key factor of the company’s success in providing the latest and most relevant information and advice to its clients.

Konekt Senior Consultant – Occupational Therapist Kate Coombes demonstrated this breadth of knowledge recently when she co-authored a paper that was published in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy.

The paper, titled Pushing through: Mental health consumers’ experiences of an individual placement and support employment programme, looked at factors that impact the success of Individual Placement and Support (IPS) programmes in Australia.

Kate’s role as a senior consultant with Konekt leverages her wide-ranging experience across her field including occupational rehabilitation, return-to-work goal development and proactive case management across same and new employer service streams. Added to this is Kate’s expertise in discipline specific assessments, including activities of daily living, workers’ compensation, and ergonomic assessments, as well as case management and working with various heavy and manufacturing industries across NSW.

When writing the case study included in the paper, Kate also brought to the table her knowledge of the importance of liaising with key stakeholders, insurance companies, and employers.

Not only is work essential for maintaining the mental health and wellbeing of the general population, it is increasingly recognised as playing an important role in the recovery of people with a severe mental illness (SMI).

But despite the recognised benefits, people with SMI are significantly less likely to be employed than members of the general population. This impacts not only the individual, but also employers, who may lose good staff due to lack of knowledge of how to appropriately support them so that they can return to, and remain in, employment.

The findings of this study will continue to support the development of best practice models, both within Konekt and across the industry, in supporting the successful return to work of those suffering from SMI.

Best practice

IPS is recognised as current best practice vocational rehabilitation for people living with a severe mental illness. Kate and her co-authors, Kirsti Haracz, Emma Robson and Carole James, conducted a qualitative study into IPS using semi-structured interviews with five participants. Each participant was diagnosed with SMI and was engaged with an IPS employment programme.

The authors’ analysis of the participants’ interviews revealed the core category and basic social process of “pushing through”. This involves experiencing discomfort, learning to adapt and getting into a groove. The participants’ actions and experiences at each stage of this process provided cues for developing more tailored support within individual placement and support to meet changing needs.

The study concluded that by increasing employment specialists’ and mental health clinicians’ understanding of the process of pushing through, and how each stage impacts consumers’ ability to engage in the IPS programme, would enable the development of tailored support appropriate to each stage of the process.

It also found that the consumers’ experience of the IPS programme did not happen in isolation of other life events, and assistance in managing everyday practicalities and health could lead to improved rates of employment and job tenure.

The benefits to SMI sufferers and employers are that these strategies can, in turn, promote the success of the programme, reflected through potentially improved rates of employment and job tenure.