One in five American adults will have a mental health condition in any given year, according to Mental Health America, a nonprofit dedicated to helping all Americans achieve wellness by living mentally healthier lives. Often, mental health disabilities do not manifest in physical symptoms making them an invisible disability to others. Because they are often “unseen” and misunderstood, many individuals live silently with the burden of an untreated mental health condition.
There are also many different types of mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, and others. May is Mental Health Month, a time to shine a light on mental health, lessen the stigma, and create a more inclusive environment.
The following story is based on true PRIDE Industries employee’s life. He is happy to share, but asked us not to use his real name. We will call him Mark.
Mark, 48, joined the PRIDE Industries team in the early 90’s. For eight years, Mark worked on PRIDE’s McClellan Air Force Base grounds maintenance crew. He left PRIDE for a brief period and worked with a local business providing landscaping services in the community. In 2001, he returned to PRIDE where he joined a supported employment group in Sacramento.
Through hard work, diligence, and dedication, Mark gained a promotion to PRIDE’s landscaping crew providing ground maintenance services to federal courthouses in Sacramento and city parks in Roseville, CA. Mark’s group consists of six individuals with disabilities supported by two supervisors.
His position with the landscaping crew allows Mark to work independently in the community. Looking at Mark, no one would know his struggles, but he has lived for years with schizophrenia. 1.1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Schizophrenia interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions, and relate to others. Often times, individuals with schizophrenia suffer additional illnesses such as post-traumatic stress, obsessive-compulsive disorder or major depression.
“Mark is a hard worker and is very dependable, very easy going, and has a great sense of humor,” says Tony, a PRIDE landscape manager. “Mark is always ready to do the job and he is great to work with.”
At a time when most of us are still sound asleep, Mark’s workday begins at four o’clock in the morning. PRIDE provides transportation for the groups which are picked up at their homes to begin shifts by 5:30 AM. All federal courthouse grounds must be manicured before their doors open at 8 AM.
“I like being with my crew, we all have a great sense of humor,” says Mark. “We just go out there and get the job done – we do the best we can.” He even made a friend at work: they live near each other and have many things in common.
At PRIDE Industries, Mark found a safe environment where he can be himself and is encouraged to overcome challenges. “In the beginning Mark was afraid to try new things – he was afraid he would do them wrong,” says Robin, Mark’s case manager at PRIDE. “He has come a long way in his skills and confidence.” Mark replies, “I guess I got a little bolder with encouragement.”
Mark continues to grow in his position. Robin encourages Mark during their check-in meetings, reminding him that he can do anything he sets his mind to. Mark’s next goal is to buy a car so he can get to and from work on his own.
Although mental illnesses may require intensive, long-term treatment and effort, individuals can and do recover, or live productive lives with appropriate supports. Unfortunately, there is no cure for schizophrenia, but it can be treated and managed with medication and psychotherapy. Recently, Mark suffered a mental breakdown and was unable to work. Fortunately, with the proper treatment Mark made a speedy recovery and returned to work knowing his job would be waiting for him once he was better. Through coaching, placement, and job skills development individuals with developmental, intellectual, mental health, sensory and physical disabilities can find success with PRIDE.
We’re proud to have Mark on our team and grateful to his entire group for making us look good to our customers.
For more information on mental health and how to help others, click here.
View the video below to learn more about Schizophrenia: