Case for support

Self Employment

Mental health consumers experience difficulties in attaining and maintaining employment due to the cyclical nature of their illness.

Self-employment is a viable option that enables mental health consumers to improve their standard of living and have a more positive presence in the community.

Participants start businesses and take control of their own mental health. By learning the skills to become self employed, and to manage their mental illness, people can improve their economic well-being and mental health. We help people become involved in their communities and develop business, wellness, interpersonal, computer, time management and financial skills in a positive environment of respect and understanding.

Anything you can do at any given
time is enough … giving us time to do
these things at our own pace is so

— Opportunity Works Participant

Community Impact

Opportunity Works’ participants often have nowhere else to turn. Some participants have never been employed and many have experienced mental health issues in a way that has kept them from being employed for long periods of time. Opportunity Works’ participants deal with a variety of debilitating issues including ongoing mental health concerns, unemployment, subsistence living, isolation, despair and shattered self-confidence and self-esteem.

Opportunity Works offers a self-employment program tailored to mental health consumers in Western Canada. Through our program, participants develop an alternative and sustainable source of income, allowing them to enhance their quality of life. Often, this is as simple as selling a painting and being able to afford a night out at the movies, but the process is a continual one and Opportunity Works provides ongoing support.

A History of Supporting Mental Health Consumers

Opportunity Works started in 1998 as a pilot site of a nation-wide project sponsored by the National Network for Mental Health and funded by the Opportunities Fund of Human Resources
Development Canada.

Over the years, Opportunity Works has developed funding relationships with the United Way of Calgary, The Calgary Foundation, Wild Rose Foundation, Alberta Gaming & Liquor Commission, the Government of Canada, an anonymous donor and a number of private donors.

Opportunity Works has a wide base of support from the mental health, business development, supported employment and local economic development communities. The Opportunity Works model is currently in a position to be expanded to include employment support and volunteerism.

Participant Success

Since Opportunity Works’ founding in 1998, Opportunity Works has provided business and mental health support to over 500 mental health consumers in Calgary. Opportunity Works’ participants come from a wide range of educational and employment backgrounds and include artists, sculptors, writers, massage therapists, photographers, business consultants and accountants.

About one in five adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.

National Institute of Mental Health

Over 70 percent of people with a mental illness are unemployed, underemployed or in jeopardy of losing employment.

Mood Disorders Society of Canada in Quick Facts: Mental Illness and Addiction in Canada

Mental illness affects people of all ages, educational and income levels, and cultures.

Canadian Mental Health Association