Objectives: The European partnership ELSiTO aimed to develop understanding of the nature and processes of social inclusion for persons experiencing mental illness.
Participants: Partners were from Belgium, Greece and The Netherlands with over 30 members including mental health service users, occupational therapists and other staff.
Approach: A knowledge-creation learning process was used during four international, experiential, visits and local meetings, which included visiting and describing good practice, telling stories of experiences, reflection and discussion.
Results: The partnership developed understandings of the nature and process of social inclusion, including both subjective and objective aspects interrelated with the doing of daily activities in the community. Members' work-related experiences, illustrated through their stories, depict the subjective aspects of social inclusion as they are shaped and framed by the objective conditions within a variety of work opportunities. Experiences in paid work, supported employment and voluntary work may both threaten and enhance mental health. Features of successful (voluntary) work experiences are identified.
Conclusions: The importance is revealed of looking critically at current understandings of work and to move beyond a narrow focus on paid work in order to provide a range of work opportunities that will empower the individual's potential and promote inclusive communities.