Can you imagine going for a job interview and telling your potential employer that you currently live on an inpatient mental health unit at Providence Care? For Forensic Mental Health clients at Providence Care, they have been faced with having to tell potential employers that they not only reside on an inpatient unit, but they reside on the Forensic Mental Health Unit. They also have to tell the potential employer that staff from the inpatient unit will be completing curfew and spot checks throughout the work day. Imagine having to tell these types of things to a complete stranger who you desperately want a job from, in a world where mental health issues remain heavily stigmatized?
This is just one of the many challenges that clients in the Forensic Mental Health system face on their journey to employment. Finding meaningful ways to spend the day is important for all of us. It contributes to our health, well-being, sense of community, sense of belonging and our sense of purpose. Individuals involved within the system face many challenges in finding and maintaining employment. As a team, our job is to help clients navigate the system, advocate for them, decrease stigma and find employment consistent with their goals.
For the Forensic Mental Health Unit at Providence Care, sharing a recent success story from a client on the unit who was able to obtain employment was particularly important for them. They wanted to share why this is important and why we should celebrate:
Despite the stigma and barriers described above and several years spent working with the treatment team to get to this point, our client was able to find meaningful and paid employment in an area of his choice. Make no mistake about it, this is amazing! This is courage. This is strength. This is recovery. We see it every day.
The stories of triumph and success may not make the newspaper like so many other stories about clients struggling with mental illness, who become so incredibly unwell that they commit a crime. You might never hear the stories of recovery but let me assure you they are there.
Every day as clinicians, we have the privilege to accompany clients on their recovery journey. Just because you did not hear about it, doesn’t make the journey any less significant, doesn’t make the success any less real and it doesn’t make the celebration any less important.
We hope that when you read or hear about some of the struggles that mentally ill individuals face in the criminal justice system that you will remember not only the illness, but the strength, the courage and the hope required for the recovery journey.
Last week we celebrated kindness and in honour of that we encourage you to consider how compassion, dignity and respect can be better incorporated into all of our lives.
For the employer who saw value, strength and skill in our client seeking employment – kudos to you for seeing the person; not the label and not the illness. Thank you for challenging assumptions, breaking barriers and becoming more inclusive to reduce the stigma that is still so heavily present. And most importantly kudos to the client and all our clients who work to find meaningful re-integration into the community. Providence Care recognizes your strength, your dignity, your worth and we are so incredibly privileged to work with you every day.