Personal Stories

Work and the Social Connectedness it Provides

Karla discusses her job as a nursery worker for her church. She reminds us of the importance of enjoying not only the financial rewards of work but also the social connectedness it provides. Work allows for the opportunity to connect with members of our community. For Karla, that connection is with her church community. Her work in the nursery offers the chance to connect with fellow church members as a caregiver and nurturer to the children there. As you hear Karla talk about her role in the church, consider the ways that you feel connected in your community. For many people, that connection is work.

A PACT Director’s Observations of the Role of Work in Providing Purpose to Life

Tom Ritter is the Director of PACT Services for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark: Mt. Carmel Guild Behavioral Health Services. When asked about his observations of the role of work in recovery for individuals with the lived experience of mental illness, Tom describes a sense of purpose that work provides. He discusses the many changes he has viewed when people return to work–better connections with family and friends, a sense of identity, and overall more optimism about the future. As you hear Tom’s story of the role he has seen work play in providing purpose to one’s life, consider these simple yet insightful words by Mary W. Shelley.

Nothing contributes so much to tranquillize the mind as a steady purpose – a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.
–Mary W. Shelley

A View of The Role of Work and Recovery from a Provider and Graduate Student

Nathan works as a community support specialist in a supportive housing program and is also a current graduate student. He shares his perspective on the role of work in recovery from his experience as both helper and learner. Nathan touches on the overall health improvements seen in people who have returned to work. It is estimated that people with mental illnesses live 25 years less than the general population. Additionally, Nathan discusses the role that work plays as a defense against “shame and stigma” and in promoting community inclusion. Through his experience, he sees people who are working as having enhanced financial benefits, richer communication, and more exposure to the happenings in one’s community.

The Light Bulb Moment: How a Career Journey Began

George shares his story of recovery and the important role that work has played in his life. He discusses his struggles to complete college and the feelings of envy as he compared his accomplishments to those around him. As George continued his career journey, these feelings of envy gave way to those of pride and success as he continued to achieve the goals he set for himself. George recalls a time when he was receiving services and a peer came to speak about his own recovery and the valued roles he held in his life. This moving story provided George with the informative nudge needed to return to school and embark on a life of career success. He refers to this moment as the “light bulb going off.” This is a good reminder of the influence we can have on one another.

Work & Recovery:A Supported Housing Provider’s View

Anthony Zazzarino is a Clinical Coordinator for Triple C Housing. He shares his view about the role of work and recovery. Anthony discusses the need for staff to believe that work is possible and positive for individuals in recovery. He movingly describes the important role that work has played in the life of a resident he knows, providing us with a compelling story of the value of remaining hopeful and optimistic.

6 responses to “Personal Stories

  1. Nathan discussed many important benefits of work and recovery. I agree with the financial stability, social inclusion, health improvement, stimulation, and defense against shame and stigma. I believe that given an individual encouragement and support could lead to form healthy social relationships, symptoms reduction,and feeling part of society in the workplace. I also think that, keeping in mind the difference between society principles and psych rehab principles is another valuable benefit. For instance,society views work more as a material component in one’s life, while psych principles are more focus with the therapeutic aspect of an individual recovery process (new things to talk about, new information, and being at a different place than program or home).

  2. I think it’s great that Anthony begins talking about the benefits of employment with individual who are about to leave the hospital because as he stated it provides motivation that the individual can be successful, and I also think it provides direction for a possible goal and encouragement that it can be achieved. I like that he stresses that benefits are mainly a source of temporary needs, and that coming home with a pay check every other week would be more beneficial. The fear of losing benefits is common, but I think it is important for practitioners to encourage employment because the rewards are much greater than those of utilizing benefits. Work provides the obvious financial stability, but I strongly agree with the fact that work promotes an individual’s self-esteem, helps build relationships, and gives individuals the feeling of meaning to their lives. Work can also be used as a coping mechanism for symptoms or stress. These are all important factors in the recovery process and can all be achieved through employment. I like how Anthony stresses that work is possible and positive for anyone, not only specific to individuals receiving mental health services. Diagnosed with a mental illness or not, having a job where an individual does something they enjoy, knowing they are good at it, and receives financial stability for it is both satisfaction and success.

  3. What stood out to me as I viewed George’s video was his mention of the need for cooperative collaboration between all parties involved in the consumer’s recovery process. When George became ill and then diagnosed at 24, he spoke of going into a partial care program and being introduce to social security. I think the combination of the two in some ways slowed his recovery process. Although he had support it wasn’t advantageous enough to foster his growth and diminish the number of relapses that occurred during the fourteen year that he struggled with his illness and find a place where he was comfortable and satisfied with his life. I agree that cooperative collaboration is important because with the help and support of family, friends, and other individuals who have and/or who understand mental illness it can help an individual focus on their goals rather than focusing and compare themselves as George did with those around them. For George “that valued work role” was important and when he met his mentor he realized that if he had worked during those fourteen-year his “relapses and symptomology” may have been reduced because he would not have been focusing so much on his illness but rather his recovery and what he valued and deemed important and that was the need to work.

  4. As I viewed Anthony’s video, “Listen to what the consumer want to do no matter what their goal is there’s something in there that you can work with” stood out. Given the stigma place on individuals who live with a mental illness, this statement is not only true but also important to understand. A great majority of the times those employed to help in the recovery process minimize the abilities and capabilities of the consumer, and this minimization can and in most case have a negative effect on an individual’s esteem, motivation and their desire to purse and work towards goal achievement. As Anthony pointed out, when he go to the hospital(s) to meet with consumers, he immediately began discussing employment. I agree that work can motivate and encourage the consumer to set goal and work towards achieving them. For both individuals who have a mental illness and for those who do not have a mental illness with work comes a sense of empowerment that give you the desire to pursue other goals. Anthony also mentioned when the consumers work they have something other then their symptoms to worry about. I think that the less the consumer worries about his/her symptom the more productive in life they can be and this may give way to increased motivation, goal setting and goal attainment.

  5. The stories are truly inspiring and the information very helpful.

  6. I really like George’s story. He demonstrates how dedicated he is to making a new start and to devoting time to his studies. I also believe work is a major factor in motivating people to move on because so much of one’s identity can be wrapped around the workplace/career setting. However, a balance needs to be maintained – as I have learned – that too much of my identity is not attached to just work.

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