—by Nicole Clevenger
(Editor's note: This story originally appeared in "Work Is Recovery: True stories of real people who benefit from Supported Employment, the evidence-based practice," a booklet which was published in March 2007. View the "Work Is Recovery" PDF.)
Ashland, OH—It is often said that actions speak louder than words. If so, Harvey Null’s back-to-work story is louder than it appears in print. Harvey does not spend much time talking about what he is going to do. He just does it. Nor does he spend much time talking about his recovery. He just lives it.
A few years ago, Harvey had a newspaper route to keep himself from getting bored. He delivered newspapers from 1 to 7 a.m. six days a week for 35 dollars per week. It was a lot of work for a little money, but he wanted something to do. Ultimately, the paper route was not challenging enough and did not pay enough, so he began to think about getting a new job, perhaps in a factory doing the kind of work he had done in the past.
He found what he was looking for at a local shop that produces plastics. He was hired, and he had to walk two miles to the job and two miles home every day, but it was worth the effort because he enjoyed the work.
"It gave me self-esteem to do it,” he says. "I felt I was slowly getting my life back together.”
Not Having It Together
Harvey continues to enjoy his job at the plastics factory, and he finds unwavering support from a team of service providers at Appleseed Community Mental Health Center in Ashland County, Ohio. Harvey first sought services from Appleseed in 1994 when he was experiencing severe symptoms of schizophrenia, including auditory hallucinations.
"When I got there, I didn’t know which end was up, or left from right,” he says. "I was in a bad way.”
He began working with a psychiatrist at Appleseed as well as a case manager and others. The team helped him begin to manage his symptoms and to overcome the devastating effects of his illness.
Working Together To Get It Together
Gradually, Harvey recovered his ability to think more clearly and to assert his desire to work. When he decided to begin the paper route, the service team at Appleseed supported his decision. When he began to talk about finding a job in a factory, the team supported him again. His supported-employment specialist helped him secure the position at the plastics factory by helping him prepare for the interview. Also, once he was hired, she helped him get accustomed to his tasks by working alongside him for his entire first day. Eventually, his case manager helped him set up a savings account and obtain his driver’s license. And when he received a pay raise, his supported-employment specialist helped him manage his benefits.
"People are afraid to go to work because they are afraid to lose benefits,” Harvey says. "Truth is, you make more money working.”
Harvey continues to see his psychiatrist, who helps him manage his medication, and thus, his symptoms. He reports that he still hears voices at times, but he hears them more at home than at work. The symptoms do not prevent him from performing well on the job.
Accomplishment: The Best Evidence Of Recovery
It has been just over a year since Harvey started his factory job, and he now has extra money for those times when, as he says, “I need a few bucks here and there.”
That phrase, a few bucks, is an understatement that is so characteristic of Harvey’s style. In fact, the job has enabled him to save enough money to buy a car, so he no longer has to walk the four-mile roundtrip to and from work every day. He drives himself instead. Reflect for a moment upon the significance of this achievement—the acquisition of automobile-enhanced self-sufficiency. It says more about Harvey’s recovery than five-hundred or one-thousand words ever could.
The "Work Is Recovery" Stories
Nicole Clevenger, BFA, is a peer consultant at the Ohio SE CCOE, an initiative of the Center for EBPs at Case Western Reserve University. Edited by Paul M. Kubek, director of communications at the Center for EBPs.