A story of recovery and defying the odds

On weekends during the WordCount 2010 Blogathon, I’ve been trying to publish inspirational stories or newsy bits that might help ex-offenders, their families and those who are interested in assisting folks trying to start over.

I came across this story Friday.   It’s written by a woman named Paula who suffers from schizophrenia.   She began hearing voices at four and was told at a very young age that she would never leave a mental hospital.    But Paula didn’t want to believe it.  So she sought help and over time, with the assistance of compassionate therapists, her mother and friends, she completed her college degree in psychology and has gone on to live a very productive life.   She now works at an agency that helps homeless and mentally ill individuals get the assistance they need.  When an interviewing panel for the case management job she was applying for askedwhy they should hire her, she was honest:

I said because I was mentally ill, I could relate to the clients better than other candidates. Boy, what a risk I was taking, but the boss — who was a visionary —  gave me a chance and I proved myself .

It’s a  remarkable story, and worth noting, since so many individuals with mental illnesses end up caught up in the justice system.  Paula didn’t, because she had support, but too many people like her do.  In fact,  nearly 16 percent of jail  and state prison inmates have mental illnesses.   In another recent study, nearly 50 percent of people in prison reported that they suffered from some sort of psychological issue.  Data compiled by the David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, shows that incarcerated individuals with mental health issues were also more likely to have suffered from contributing factors like homelessness, alcoholism, abuse, unemployment, job or school trouble than their fellow prisoners.

It was inspiring for me to see all the work the Bazelon Center is doing on behalf of the mentally ill, to protect and advocate for their legal rights.  If you’ve never heard of this organization, check it out here. There are many ways you can help.

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4 Comments

Filed under addiction and recovery, ex-offender psychology, inspiration

4 responses to “A story of recovery and defying the odds

  1. That’s a very unusual story. The lady has guts. The employer, too. It’s very inspiring.

    • Yes, it is isn’t it? And think of what they both got for taking this risk — Paula got a job she could excel at and the employer got someone who really understood the people she was hired to help.

      You hope others can learn by this example.

  2. Bill Congdon

    Excellent example for someone (like me) trying to get a job, say working for defense attorneys. With her experience dealing with illness and then training to give assistance to others she has a unique perspective of great value.
    My experience having been prosecuted and working as an attorney inside the prison for other men, gives me an unparalleled education with which to serve the client working now, as a defense paralegal.

    • That’s very smart, Bill. I’m told that attorneys often “get it” much more than your average employer, since they’ve worked with enough offenders to know not to lump everyone together. I hope you find you find a good match and your enlightened boss soon. Your experience and insight could be invaluable!

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