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.