By the time we are two or three years old, we are already asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” As children we often dream big and respond with “a Fireman!”, “a Ballerina!”, “the President!”. When I was asked this as a child, I responded that I wanted to be a Mountain Climber. Such a dream in the literal sense would cease to come true, and yet when I look back on my work career, it certainly has the essence of metaphorically climbing mountains. A mountain climber is able to step back and assess challenges, map a route, and find the inner strength to eventually accomplish the summit. Similarly, I was able to assess the scope of my potential career and—with dedication, trust, and belief in myself—follow a path to success.
This is not true for everyone.
Imagine being asked what you want to be when you grow up—and having no answer. Or having an answer, but having a limited belief in yourself or your abilities to see it through to fruition. Imagine waking up as an adult and thinking to yourself, “I have nothing to do today, I have nowhere to be, I have no one to be with.” Imagine being at a party and meeting someone new who asks you (as they always do), “So, what do you do?”, and being unable to respond. Imagine also having mental health challenges which may have curtailed your future plans and left you feeling that work was no longer an option. How does one begin to dream again?
Enter supported employment and Mindful Works: a social enterprise and therapeutic work environment that sees people not as their diagnosis but as untapped potential. While the products of Mindful Works are cushions, body products, and baked goods, the real product is instilling confidence while also building practical work skills in their apprentices so that they can eventually return to successful employment in the community. And dream again.
Why Work works in mental health recovery
In the following video segment from the Windhorse Conference in July 2020, we hear from several people for whom work became (and continues to be) the keystone to their recovery. We hear that work makes a person feel normal, important, and valued. Furthermore, work builds self-esteem, is socially validating, and gives a person a sense of accomplishment and purpose. By providing rhythm and routine, work becomes an elixir to feeling idle and groundless. The ability to be of benefit to society through work—and be seen as a contributor—is paramount in one’s sense of belonging to something larger than oneself. As one audience member comments, “I got my feet from working…and learned that I could be more than what my diagnosis allowed me to be.” Finally, as the Director of Mindful Works, Sue Williams, points out, it has been empirically and anecdotally proven that “work works”.
If you’re in the mood to feel inspired, have a listen.
Judy Halloran, MA, LPC
Windhorse Community Service
Learn about why work works for mental health recovery at Mindful Works