Research undertaken at Workbridge finds that work gives service users a sense of purpose

Engaging in work activities within a mental health setting helps to give patients a sense of purpose, fulfilment and achievement, according to a study by University of Northampton doctorate student Joshua Ige.

Joshua, has a background in Occupational Therapy and has just completed his Doctorate of Professional Practice at the University of Northampton. Joshua spent 2019 interviewing Workbridge service users in a secure hospital setting at St Andrew’s Healthcare.

His study explored how mental health service users experience work within a secure hospital environment.

His findings showed that:

  • Patients who take part in work activities improve their mood and tend to avoid triggers of mental illness
  • Work activities help to give patients experience and knowledge of work after they leave hospital
  • Patients felt empowered in their workplace when they were offered choice about their role at work
  • Patients require a balance between work and leisure activities to support good mental health
  • Occupational therapists should assess how a patient reacts to change, their tolerance levels and their responses to new challenges in work.


Joshua explained:

"I found that work can make forensic mental health service users feel nervous, but service users believe that involvement in work is beneficial to their recovery when it is person-centred and based on their own choices. Work also provides structure, fulfilment, purpose and routine; this can be therapeutic in nature, increasing the possibility of future employment - but can also have some negative outcomes such as work being unsuited to a person's abilities. If the work is unsuitable it can lead to mistakes, which may have an impact on participants' mental state, or provoke boredom due to a lack of interest."


Joshua enjoyed working with staff at Workbridge and St Andrew's.

"The staff at Workbridge were friendly and enthusiastic. They put me in touch with ward teams to gain consent, and helped me find service users who were interested in taking part in this study. I would like to specially thank Tej Patel (Occupational therapist for Hawkins ward) who supported me to access participants who were interested in this study and met the criteria."