“Work can be a very powerful antidepressant,” says Rick Martinez, medical director of corporate contributions for Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, N.J. “It gives a huge lift to self-esteem.”

Though Martinez’s words may ring true for many people, he is talking specifically about people with serious mental illnesses. Studies from the New Hampshire-Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center (PRC) suggest that although the majority of people with serious mental illness want to work, only a fraction...

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