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People with mental illness often find themselves unable to participate in the workforce. But a Sudbury man who struggles with schizophrenia says employment has saved his life.
After 14 years of volunteering at the Northern Initiative for Social Action (NISA) in Sudbury, Alexander Radway is now employed by the organization.
He's a support worker at the centre and mentors others who struggle with mental illness.
Radway said being gainfully employed has made all the difference in his life.
"Employment means a better socio-economic status,” he said. “I feel like I belong to society because I partake in the economy. I like to go out and eat in restaurants, entertain myself and [go to] the bingo."
Employers need to recognize the abilities of individuals with severe mental illness and the reality that they can be motivated employees, according to Karen Rebeiro Gruhl, an occupational therapist with NISA.
"These are people with capacity who need the right opportunity,” Rebeiro Gruhl said.
“[They need] .... the right employer who believes that everyone has a place."
She noted that, although society has advanced in terms of services for the mentally ill, opportunities for employment are rare.
NISA has a rehabilitation program geared to helping people successfully integrate back into society after a mental health crisis.
Reberio Gruhl said their success rate could be higher if people who are mentally ill could find employment.
“That's the good news of the whole story,” she said. “You can actually live a good life and have a good quality of life living with a mental illness."
At one time, voices inside Alexander Radway’s head kept him locked up in his home and he was too afraid to leave.
But that's changed.
Now, if he wakes up from “a peaceful sleep” to “disturbing voices” in his head, he soldiers onward.
"Eventually, as soon as I get to work, everything seems to fall into place,” Radway said.