John Lennon said, "Work is life, you know, and without it there's nothing but fear and insecurity." Employment, whether it's competitve or supported is an essential ingredient to recovery from a psychiatric disability. I am referring to more than a job, but a career, a vocation, a 'calling' if you will. In leading and overseeing the development of peer support groups I have alot of interesting conversations. Once we get past the 'label game' (my name is Steve and I have bipolar) and psych medications 101 (Depakote turned me into the Goodyear Blimp), and the discussion about how long it takes to get Medicaid or disability benefits....then slowly, but surely a good facilitator will help peers zero in on what's really important in our lives as people. A consumer quoted in a job development booklet published by the Canadian Mental Health Association puts the needs of all human beings into one simple sentence; "Real recovery means to have a home, a job and a friend."
I am quite passionate about the importance of work and economic stability in behavioral health. Being laid off from a job that I enjoyed for 10 years back in 1996 and that I fully intended to retire from was emotionally crushing. I had panic attacks, chronic anxiety and hit the 'manic button' to find a way to take care of my family financially and start over. The job loss was the main trigger that took me from mild bouts of depression to full-blown mood swings. And there are lots of other people out there (especially in this Great Recession) who are experiencing the same thing.
Work is a wonderful four letter word. It gives purpose and meaning to life. It is fundamental to creating a reason to get up in the morning and to whatever degree possible, tell your symptoms to take a hike. I'll have lots more to say on this topic in future posts. In the meantime let's find the best psychiatric rehabilitation pratices and incorprate them as major programs in every recovery-based program in the country. A fullfilling career is within reach of every peer who wants to invest the time, energy and mindset changes required for success.