Professionals’ Experiences Integrating Workers with Mental Health Problems on the Danish Labour Market

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 17:54
Oral Presentation
Søren SALLING WEBER, Roskilde University, RUC, Denmark
Mental health problems are apparently a persistent barrier for labour market participation. However, an increasing political-economical pressure to activate workers and ensure labour market participation in the Danish welfare state aligns with users’ appeals for inclusion in a strong call for contextualized and non-dogmatic understanding of the relation between labour and mental health problems. This paper analyses what welfare professionals’ experiences integrating people diagnosed with mental health problems on the Danish labour market means for their understanding of the interplay between wage labour and mental health problems.

I draw on biographical and thematic interviews from an ongoing investigation of professionals’ work with the method Individual Placement and Support in the Danish welfare system, which I construe as an extreme case of the societal attempt to integrate people with a diagnosis on the ordinary labour market.

Theory of Hartmut Rosa and Claus Offe is used to conceptualize the tensions in the work between socio-cultural acceleration of the differentiated welfare institutions, the socio-political attempts to activate the workers and the incessant changes needed in the conduct of life when participating on the labour market. The concepts of experience (‘erfahrung’) and biographical learning (‘biographicität’) are employed to show how the professionals process these contradictions.

The analysis focuses on the paradox that the activation of the ’workers’ further convolutes the relations between the ‘user’, ‘client’, ‘citizen’ or ‘patient’ and the various professionals. This, in turn, generates learning potentials for a changed, contextualized understanding of participation in wage labour with a psychiatric diagnosis. However, in spite of an increasing suspicion that mental unrest is socially co-determined and mediated, the inter-professional collaboration is anchored in an individualized psychiatric diagnosis. I discuss what this means for the learning outcomes of the involved professionals.