Research projects

Ensuring best practice in terms of seeking and maintaining employment for people with depression and related disorders: An evaluation of the Disability Open Employment Services program

Principal Researchers

Dr Ian Munro, School of Nursing Deakin University (1)

Mr. Sean Guy, Chief Executive Officer, JobCo Employment Services (2)

Professor Joseph Graffam, Head of School of Psychology, Deakin University (1)

Dr Karen-Leigh Edward, School of Nursing, Deakin University (1)


(1) Deakin University

(2) JobCo Employment Services



Award Type

beyondblue Victorian Centre for Excellence

Project completion year


Project brief

The study aimed to evaluate the Disability Open Employment Services (DOES), now termed the Disability Employment Network (DEN), developed by the Australian Federal Government to assist clients with health disabilities to seek and maintain employment. Currently there are 69 DEN programs in Victoria and approximately 236 DEN programs Australia-wide.

The study was an in-depth exploration of employment factors and their impact on clients with depressive disorders and other mental illnesses who receive vocational support services. Employment factors, described by clients and staff of DEN programs, were explored using both quantitative and qualitative research methods. The knowledge gained from this study will be used to enhance program delivery to clients, an outcome which has the potential to enhance their mental health status.

Key Findings and Recommendations

The key findings relate to the fragmented status of current services and the inadequate preparation of employment counsellors. 

Need for improved cohesion of services

Services for people with mental health illnesses are currently fragmented. Improved cohesion is needed to ensure that clients’ mental health and vocational needs are met simultaneously. This mode of service provision will promote better outcomes for clients, the vocational support services (in terms of placement rates) and employers.

Need for more informed employment counsellors

The educational preparation of employment counsellors working with this client group is often inadequate. To provide optimal assistance, counsellors need to have a sound working knowledge of mental illness and associated issues. In particular, employment counsellors must work with clients in the context of their individual phase of recovery.

To this end, specifically, the development of educational programs are proposed.

Implications for Policy and Practice

  1. To enhance the provision of employment services to people with a mental illness research is required into the factors which clients perceive as enabling or inhibiting their participation in employment support services. 
  2. Future research should address clients’ perceptions of enablers and barriers to their participation in employment support services. Key issues for exploration include: service cultures, service resourcing and systemic barriers. 
  3. Specific research should be undertaken with indigenous clients and clients from non-English speaking backgrounds.
  4. Integration of Services: Further knowledge is required of ways by which employment support services and mental health organisations can work together as interlocked services.
  5. Education Regarding Mental Health: Investigation is required into the mental health educational needs of employment counsellors and of models for the provision of education to staff.  


The research team has produced the following publications and conference presentations based on the findings of research funded by beyondblue.


Edward, K., & Munro, I. (in press 2008). Depression and other mental illnesses in the context of workplace efficacy. International Journal of Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing.

Munro, I., & Edward, K. (submitted for peer review Dec 2007). The recovery journey - Employment support for people with depression and other mental illnesses. Australian e Journal of Mental Health.


Munro, I. & Edward, K. (2007)– Poster- Ensuring best practice in terms of maintaining and seeking employment for people with depression and other mental illnesses: An evaluation of the Disability Open Employment Program. Victorian Centre of Excellence, beyondblue Research Forum. 30 October. Melbourne, Australia.

Munro, I. & Edward, K.  (2007) – Paper- Ensuring best practice in terms of maintaining and seeking employment for people with depression and other mental illnesses: An evaluation of the Disability Open Employment Program – a presentation on progress. The 33rd Annual International Conference of the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN Inc.) 8th – 12th October. Cairns, Australia.

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