Specific places to get help.
Often there are State agencies that deal with worker rehabilitation - check under your state governmental listings, look for Jobs Commission, Workforce Administration, Rehabilitation etc. Perhaps under the Labor Department.
If you’re collecting worker’s compensation insurance payments of any kind, there may be some assistance there, as well.
The Federal Gov’t ‘job assistance’ program is called the “Workforce Investment Act” ask the state agencies who administers those programs in your area.
In addition, if you’re recieving food stamps assistance, you may be eligible for some re-training assistance through that as well, welform reform ya know.
Also, check with your local community mental health provider - the one in my area offers specific services targeted for folks in your situation.
As far as the gap, I work with ex-offenders for a living, so am familiar with gaps in work record. The truth is very few people have an absolute gap, as in they’ve not done a single thing. If you’ve done anything like helping people with errands, babysitting etc., that’s experience, (ok, so not full time, you’re not claiming it was full time).
Volunteering is also experience - have you done anything with your church or social clubs? political work? etc.
It’s easier on a resume (“1994 - 2000 Fogmage’s Services, provided house sitting, pet care and other services.”) On an app, where it asks for wages, you’d list “comp. varied” (which always happens in work like that)
As far as telling them about your history of mental illness - my opinion is that employers need to know about things that may cause an issue on the job - for example, if you have a hearing loss and will need an adaptation for the phone. In general, I feel the employer should know stuff that would be on a medic alert bracelet (I’m allergic to bee stings, and tell all my employees so they know why I’m such a wuss about it), and/or if you would need accomodations.
In the interview, I’d say something like “I was on a temporary disability leave from 1994. I’ve recovered pretty much from that incident, there wouldn’t be any accomdations needed for me here”.
Would be happy to help more if you think it’d be helpful.