After a violent mugging outside an ATM in Winnipeg, Bryan Hall slipped into a dark depression and was riddled with anxiety — his failing mental health eventually landed him in hospital.
But hitting an emotional rock bottom helped Hall reprioritize his life.
"It actually gave me the ability to turn my life a round in a lot of ways," said Hall, who has since quit his career and joined Self Starting Creative Opportunities for People in Employment, a non-profit agency better known by its acronym Sscope, that helps Winnipeggers with mental illness.
The north-Winnipeg non-profit is a peer-support work program for people living with mental illness.
"I realized that my former career in the investment industry was not fulfilling for me and I was more interested in people than I was in money."
Hall started at Sscope in May 2017 with truck crews, picking up garbage and mowing lawns. Today, just several months later, he is in charge of administration, special projects and donor relations.
Hall, along with other Sscope employees, recently took CBC Information Radio host Marcy Markusa on a ride-along as they picked up e-recycling waste in Winnipeg's West Broadway neighbourhood.
The group dispatches its crews and trucks to shovel snow and cut grass, pick up items for the landfill, and collect e-waste for recycling. As well as acting as a delivery and moving service, Sscope has two thrift stores in the city.
Jobs, purpose and work experience
The non-profit is partially funded through the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and the group self-funds 75 per cent of costs through its business operations.
Employees at Sscope have varying degrees of mental illness.
The program, which was started 26 years ago, is credited with helping people feel useful and productive, while gaining work experience to put on their resumes.
Joe Addison has been working at Sscope since August 2014. Today, he is the lead crew chief, and says the work helped him get off social assistance.
The program also helped him realize he "could make something of myself," said Addison, who lives with schizophrenia.
'It keeps me going.; - Evan Fontaine, 22, pick-up crew member at Sscope
"It keeps me happy and organized," said Evan Fontaine, who works on the pickup crew.
Fontaine, 22, is on the autism spectrum and it was his uncle who initially encouraged him to go to work at Sscope.
"I got pride for it," he said. "It keeps me going. There's really nothing to do in the apartment there, but when I come to work, there is always something to do."
Fontaine said Sscope has helped him build himself up. He also hopes to go back to school in the future, and in addition to working together, co-workers act as an unofficial support group for each other.
For Hall, working at Sscope has ultimately helped keep his depression and anxiety at bay, and he credits his job at Sscope for the majority of his mental wellness today.
"It was probably 70 to 80 per cent of my recovery this year has been as a result of my involvement with Sscope," Hall said. "Because when I'm at Sscope, I am not thinking about me, I'm thinking about someone else."