Transitioning into adulthood is challenging for everyone. “Becoming an adult” typically demands a complex set of decisions and steps that an individual has never encountered before: leaving home; living independently; enrolling and succeeding in school; getting to and from home, school, and work; budgeting resources for basic necessities and recreation; making job and career choices; finding a place to live; and developing social and personal relationships. Every decision requires making one choice over another. For most young adults, this process relies on direction and support from family members or other caring adults, mentors, social networks, and other support systems. For the more than three million young adults diagnosed with serious mental health conditions, however, these choices can be enormously challenging. Many experience higher than average academic, social, and employment failure. Although the precise clinical origins of their emotional disturbances can remain complicated and enigmatic, some promising approaches to reversing these negative trends are emerging.
This study focuses on the role of skills development, work, and career exploration in helping youth with mental illness transition to meaningful employment and independent living. It presents findings from case studies of five promising program sites and identifies program design features and system-level policies that appear to help youth and young adults with mental health needs better transition into adulthood and life-long success.