Supported Employment in Mental Healthcare can Change Lives
Harry, a patient of The Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester is actively involved with the Supported Employment division of the Community Support Services Program. I was offered the opportunity to work with Harry as his Employment Specialist, to provide various support services to assist him in obtaining his employment goals. It was remarkable to recognize how the process of preparing for employment could be such a significant contributor to one’s wellbeing and quality of life, and Harry’s story demonstrates just that.
Two months ago when Harry and I began working together, he was struggling to find a job, despite his efforts over the previous six months of trying everything he could. Harry had been unemployed for ten years, but he was determined to reach his goal of securing employment. To do so would mean so much to Harry, and it would also contribute to his recovery. A job would also provide Harry with a steady income, and would offer a daily, comfortable environment for him to be a part of each day.
When I met Harry, he described himself as, “I don’t feel well or up to par at all. I cry a lot because I tend to associate with mean spirited people and I also struggle with alcohol addiction.”
I recall the day I drove Harry to his interview, and I knew how nervous he was about going inside as he couldn’t help but think of all the disappointments he experienced from job-seeking efforts in the past. We talked for a long time and I reassured him that I would help him through it. He knew that if he were offered the job, I would continue to work with him to provide onsite supports and validation for his efforts. Harry landed the job and by the end of his first week of employment, he no longer needed onsite supports. As I drove Harry to his employment site, I asked him many questions as I wanted to assure myself that he was going to be okay. I recall Harry turning his head to face me as he said, “Monica, don’t worry about me, I am fine. I am not nervous and I am not scared anymore. The people I work with are nice people and I know to ask questions if I have them. I will be okay, I promise.” I felt so elated with an immense amount of pride that I had helped Harry accomplish his goal of securing employment and that he was able to communicate his personal success and growth through his presentation and words.
After finding a job, Harry said it helped his mental health and he in turn felt like a nicer person as well. ”When I am at work, people treat me well and with a lot of respect. I take care of myself and I am less nervous about everything. I sleep better, and wake up happier. Today, I have a job, and I am receiving my six month sobriety chip” said Harry.” It has been a rewarding experience to be part of Harry’s journey and to see him today as a fully employed citizen of our community.
Throughout the process of working with Harry to seek, obtain, and maintain employment, I was able to see Harry grow and make changes in his life. It was truly rewarding to see Harry conquer his challenges by overcoming his barriers and emphasizing his strengths. He has refined his skills by learning to prioritize and problem solve around his responsibilities, and has strengthened his mindset, confidence, and outlook on life. Today, Harry radiates happiness, which is a far cry from his disposition when we first began working together.
The Mental Health Center’s Community Support Services program, helps individuals to set goals, which improve their wellbeing and quality of life. Individuals like Harry, are provided a support system to assist them along the way, until our services are no longer needed. Every day we take pride in seeing both men and woman in our care make significant changes that propel them forward towards a healthier and happier life!
I recently asked Harry, “What contributed towards your personal success of setting and reaching your employment goal that was different from what you tried in the past?” Without hesitancy, he responded, “I just needed someone to give me a chance; to not give up on me. You gave me that chance… You all inspired me to get better and helped me along the way to be where I am. Thank you.”
*This story reflects the author’s recollection of experiences over time. Some names and characteristics have been changed, some events have been compressed, and some dialogue has been recreated.