Target Group: mental health problems
Activity: gardening/agriculture, low-threshold, product sales


“Vocational rehabilitation may be a positive response to prolonged work disability, accelerating return to meaningful employment, minimising workdays lost, increasing productivity of injured workers, reducing premature retirement, and containing the welfare costs. Early intervention and the patient’s active involvement decrease deconditioning and illness behavior and foster higher return-to-work rates. Moreover, vocational rehabilitation delivered to patients at risk for job loss (but still employed) can delay job loss.”

The organisation

The EKPSE (pre)vocational training programme forms part of the Society of Social Psychiatry and Mental Health in Alexandroupolis, Greece. Besides vocational training, this parent organisation offers housing support, day centres, mobile psychiatric units, community advocacy, education for mental health professionals and rehabilitation programmes. The training programme takes place in Evros and offers vocational and rehabilitative support to people with mental health problems. The trainees raise plants in a field and sell the products on a market. While aiming to increase the self-esteem of the participants, they are supported in their social and labour market integration. The programme not only includes medical and psychosocial treatment but also ways to foster social interaction, to promote independent living, and to encourage vocational performance. At the beginning of the trajectory the participants discuss with the head of the programme what plants or vegetables they will seed. Afterwards they prepare the ground, seed, take care of the plants on a daily basis, harvest and sell at the market. All the products are biological, without the use of insecticides. Besides, participants can also be trained in the keeping of domestic animals such as chickens, pigs, turkeys and rabbits. The project was founded in 1986 and has continually evolved to keep meeting the needs of the participants and society. Since its beginning the programme has grown gradually, now offering work to 17 people.


The main subject of training (agricultural cultivations) and the kind of production (primary sector) was selected taking into account the special needs of the target group in relation with their illness and their previous life. They promote their products to the community and with the earnings they in turn support the programme. In the meantime they receive education, counselling and general work guidance.

Surveys have pointed out that, at 6 months to 2 years after vocational rehabilitation, only about 20% of subjects had a job, whereas many more receive a disability pension. This finding demonstrates that there is room for improving the selection criteria for vocational rehabilitation interventions. Moreover, the role of national disability compensation systems in influencing the worker’s motivation to return to work should not be overlooked, as well as the importance of specific policies aimed at better (re-) integrating and maintaining disabled people in the labour market.

In order to keep the programme sustainable they will continue to work on several key points, namely the empowerment of participants in order to need less employers for the programme, the utilisation of the Social Economy, and an increase of the programme's financial independence.

More information


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