Intersectoral action to employ individuals with mental illness: lessons learned from a local development initiative.

BACKGROUND: Intersectoral action is now widely recognized as an effective approach to addressing the social determinants of health. In particular, collaboration between different sectors of the community has been recommended as a strategy for developing employment opportunities for persons diagnosed with mental illness. However, there is limited evidence on the actual implementation of intersectoral action between the employment and mental health sector.

METHODS: Case study methodology was utilized to examine a unique partnership formed under the principles of public health and local development to create a social enterprise. Stakeholders representing organizations from several sectors of the community, including health and employment, partnered to develop work opportunities for a population that is disadvantaged from the mainstream employment market including (but not exclusive to) persons diagnosed with mental illness. The three main methods of inquiry were: semistructured interviews, participant observation and collected documentation.

FINDINGS: Stakeholders experienced several kinds of challenges during the implementation process and used different strategies to manage these challenges. The findings suggest barriers and facilitators to successful intersectoral action initiatives, some of which are directly applicable to the context of employment and mental illness.

CONCLUSION: Several lessons are drawn from these experiences.