Mental Illness – Perspective Through Story
Take some time to imagine this story about mental illness. A person opens their eyes to the first sign of sunlight, there is a sense of quiet, a hint of calm. Then, suddenly, a voice that does not belong to them interrupts their morning haze, shouting that this person is “worthless and should go back to bed.” And so the person does, missing the chance to fulfill their daily plans.
The next day, they defy the voices, forcing themselves to face the day. After a long day of struggle, they finally lay down to get a break from the anxiety, the irritability, the feelings of hopelessness and being misunderstood. However, instead of finding solace in sleep, they find their mind can’t stop running. So instead, they stay awake all night, scribbling down thoughts they never share with anyone. As the sun begins to shine, exhaustion takes over and they finally rest. They sleep through the day, calling out from work, losing their job as a result. It’s a scary story. The worst part though? It’s not fiction and millions of people are living it on a regular basis. But this story can have a happy ending.
Symptoms and Consequences
Adults living with severe mental illness struggle with lack of motivation, insomnia, mania, paranoia, delusions and hallucinations, hopelessness, panic, anxiety, and much, much more. These symptoms often result in hospitalization, homelessness, and/or incarceration. As scary as this is, our intention is not to scare you. It is meant to educate you on how much impact involvement in the appropriate community support services can be to those with mental illness. One such service, is known as “case management.”
“We do everything we can to turn it all around…”
The role of a case manager is ever-changing and all-encompassing. All of the participants in our Supportive Housing Case Management programs are living with severe mental illness, some with a dual diagnosis of mental illness and substance abuse. Some of our clients have supportive families who are fully invested in the success and safety of their loved one. However, many of our clients have been cast away by their friends, family, and society as a whole and have nowhere to turn for help but to our agency. The symptoms of their mental illness have interfered with their lives in such a way that they are left homeless and hopeless. We do everything we can to turn it all around, so they can look forward to a brighter future.
Case Managers – Seeing Results That Matter
A case manager’s role is to help our clients accomplish goals that increase their satisfaction in eight wellness dimensions including emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social, and spiritual. In short, we want our clients to be able to live healthy, independent lives. The list of ways in which a case manager assists our clients to achieve independent living is endless but includes things like finding housing, linking clients to appropriate resources, enrolling them in benefits they might be eligible for, and advocating and teaching self-advocacy so needs are met in the mental health care system and in the community. Case managers also provide education on how to budget finances, on the importance of creating natural support systems, and how to assess crisis situations while reacting appropriately.
Case manager services are individualized and can change significantly from client to client so our client success stories are not all the same. A success story could be providing someone with interventions and support until they decide to seek the appropriate treatment for their ongoing drug addiction. It could be providing support to a client who had been abandoned by her parents and spent much of her adult life being homeless and seeing her become empowered enough to buy a car. It could be providing case management services for two years and in that time seeing an individual go from being unemployed and on the street to getting a subsidy for a new apartment, which leads to getting a job, which leads to them getting married. While they are different stories, they are all stories of growth and progress through being linked to the right support.
Case management services are different every day. Some days are longer and harder than others. If you ask any case manager why they chose this role in life, they would tell you that there is no greater feeling than empowering others who struggle to see themselves as capable, worthy, and strong. The ability to play a part in helping someone improve the way their story goes is an honor that case managers are lucky to have. Visit our website to learn more about our Easterseals case management services.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Crystal Williams graduated with her BA in Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University with no idea how she wanted to apply her degree. When Crystal heard of Easterseals NJ and the mission to enrich the lives of people with disabilities, she thought this would be a great opportunity to apply the tools she learned through school. Crystal began working in the residential program for adults living with severe mental illness and instantly took pride in this work. When a case manager position opened up, she was enticed by the idea of helping adults living with severe mental illness achieve their goals and lead fulfilling lives independently in the community. She has been doing that for almost 3 years. Crystal truly believes in the work that she does and can’t wait to continue to grow in this field.