March 10, 2011
What is work? Think about your first job. What did it mean to you? Weren’t you excited and proud of yourself and think you could conquer the world! There is power in earning money. It creates independence.

For many of us, our first jobs are stepping stones to other jobs. Our first jobs taught us valuable lessons about work ethic, responsibility, the dynamics of relationships and respect for ourselves and others. To quote Drew Horn, Founder of the Turn a Frown Around Foundation, New Jersey, a presenter at the September Morgan Forum, he says, There are many days when I’m not up to working. The reality is that when I put on my clothes and I’m out the door, I’m on. I’m on and it forces me to move beyond my depression. Click to watch his presentation.

Meaningful work has the power to heal. It can be the routine, the relationships or the sense of accomplishment that builds self-esteem. Your history is not your destiny. People who have mental illness must take the next step towards healing. Get out of bed, take a shower, get dressed, leave your house, etc. Work creates a purpose to do that.

A video created by the Foundation highlighted the great work being done at Neighboring in Mentor, Ohio. The individuals in the video volunteered to tell their experiences related to the employment process. It showed individuals, their families and support staff talking about how supported employment, when “done right,” helps promote recovery. Watch this video by clicking here.

Robert Drake, M.D., Ph.D. and Deborah Becker, M.Ed. of the Psychiatric Research Center at Dartmouth launched the March 10th Margaret Clark Morgan Forum showing remarkable research demonstrating that having a job has more impact on one’s recovery than medication, talk therapy and traditional treatments. A job actually reduces symptoms, alleviates many stressors and improves the overall outlook of living. The sooner one considers working, the sooner they begin to feel confident, have improved self-esteem, a greater sense of accomplishment and a purpose for living and moving forward in recovery.

Throughout the day other speakers shared the value of work and meaningful employment. Steve Shober and Nicole Clevenger, Coordinating Center of Excellence, Case Western Reserve University spoke about Debunking Employment Myths and Provider Challenges for People Who Want to Work. Clevenger also highlighted the error of people making assumptions or judgments about someone’s abilities based on their illness or symptoms.

Steve Stone and David Ross from the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Ashland County looked at many employment initiatives and made a case for why Supported Employment worked best for their county. Stone, Executive Director challenged other board leaders to reprioritize mental health programs. When funding is limited it is difficult to evaluate and cut services. Boards must commit to and implement recovery focused initiatives.

At the conclusion of the day, participants felt empowered to tackle the barriers to employment. Many people commented that they wanted to increase the opportunities for people living with mental illness to secure and sustain meaningful work.

Handouts:

Robert Drake Slide Presentation PDF
Deborah Becker Slide Presentation PDF
Nicole Clevenger and Steve Shober Slide Presentation PDF
Nicole Clevenger and Steve Shober Benefit Handout PDF
Steve Stone and David Ross (Ashland County) Slide Presentation PDF