Community Inclusion

Working imageBy zerom seyoum

Twelve years ago I was in the hospital. Some of us had day leaves and used to go to the Tri-city mental health center at Port Coquitlam. One day the occupational therapist invited the manager of the Home depot at Coquitlam to talk to us.  He introduced himself to us and he said that he has a brother who suffers from mental illness and that he empathizes with us and understands what we were going through. He was passionate speaker. Then he said he would give us an opportunity to work at the Home Depot at Coquitlam that he manages, for three months on trial basis. And if we proved that we were good at it, and prove ourselves to be competitive he would hire us to work there at the same level as the other employees. We were 11-12 patients.

It had different work-areas and we were assigned to our interest areas. The work was doing the same thing over and over and was very repetitive. None involved mental manoeuvring or deep mental thinking. Mine was carrying items up and down the shelves. When customers want something from the shelf I went on the ladder up to the shelves and bring down the item. Some times when we have new arrivals I had to find a place for them on the shelves. The shelves are two to three stories high. The whole day I am carrying up or bringing down appliances. Every day I was covered with sweat.  There was only one person whom I reported to. I approached him only when I had a problem. He never supervised me and never asked what I had been doing during the day. I was on my own. I was surprised to find out that although we were on trial basis we were insured.

After three months I was told if I wanted I would be hired. I had a second thought. One day after working for three to four hours I was lifting an air conditioner to a two story high shelf on the ladder. I reached the last shelf and I was trying to put the air conditioner on the shelf. My face was covered with sweat, my legs were trembling, my hands shaking, all my energy was drained. My hands gave up on me and the air conditioner plummeted down to the ground breaking many expensive items on its way. I didn’t know what to do. After two to three hours I told my supervisor without knowing what he was going to say. He just said “it is good you told me, it will be covered by our insurance. You see I am diabetic on insulin. I need to eat every few hours especially when I am doing such hard work. There was no opportunity to do that. So I declined the opportunity to be employed because of my physical health limitations and not of my mental health short comings. Seven or eight of the patients, were hired and started working there.

The opportunity given to us to work at Home Depot was one of its kind and what I call community inclusion.

Once a patient is stable on his medications s/he can adjust to a routine timetable.. We work with loyalty, honesty devotion and diligence. As long as the job requires doing the same thing over and over we are second to none. Two three weeks ago Tim Horton’s was showing off its support for the mentally ill and how satisfied they were with the work their mentally ill did. The people with mental illness were working as dish washers, mopping the floor and cleaning the tables. This work at Tim Hortons is example of “Community inclusion.”  Experience shows given the opportunity of work as community inclusion, we have proved we are no less workers than anybody else. But we differ in educational background, social background, work experience and cultural back ground. So we are not limited to mopping or wiping tables.


Living with Schizophrenia

Guest blogger Amy Kay sent the story below to us re: her experiences living with schizophrenia. She has a website too and you’ll find a link to it at the end of the article. Enjoy!

"Rising"  Recovery is about rising upward, again and again.


I would love to feature my blog on your website or at least share my story.

This is my personal story of living with schizophrenia:

I used to tell people “I have a bad brain.”

I am not going to say I suffer from schizophrenia but rather I endure and cope with it.

My name is Amy Kay and I have schizophrenia. I do not want to hurt others or myself. Neither do I hear voices and I no longer live in a delusional world.

In 2008 during my initial psychiatric breakdown I did live in a delusional world. In this world I believed I was Mother Earth. I felt I was responsible for taking all souls to heaven with me. I was afraid that my family and friends were trying poison me. I ran away from them. They called the cops and that is how I ended up in the psychiatric ward.

My dad drove from Mobile Alabama to Orlando Florida to take me home with him. During this time I had no insurance so I could not afford the medicines to control my brain disorder. I became fearful that my step mom was trying to kill me. I ended up back in the psychiatric ward. This time in Mobile Alabama.

They put me in a group home. I got my medications straightened out. I am consumer at Altapointe. They have a place for people to get medications for cheap without insurance. So I got my medicines from there until I get insurance.

Today everyone tells me that I am handling my mental illness very well! Sometimes I feel depressed and I have trouble getting close to people. My thoughts can be disorganized. My memory is not always great. Even though I have this disorder I do more than just cope. I take my medications, receive counseling and have a good support system.

I control schizophrenia! It does not control me! Recently I started a blog chronicling my life and how this condition slowly reared it’s ugly head.

I want to inspire people like me that we can live full productive lives! Until recently I would not have attempted to write a blog. However with the encouragement of friends I found that I was more than capable at this endeavor.

Life is difficult. Even more so with a brain disorder but having a fulfilling life is possible!

Thanks for your consideration!



Peer Support Word Cloud – Generated by Grads & Guests from the Class of 2013-14

Hi all,

Happy New Year!

My resolution is to update this blog more frequently and, to start things, off, I’d like to share with you the Word Cloud that was generated by Grads and Guests of our Peer Support Training Class of 2013-14. They had their big celebration in the fall and at it, folks were asked to list words that resonated for them when they thought of peer support. The image below is what they came up with. Enjoy!

PSW Word Cloud 2013-14 vers3

World Suicide Prevention Day Twit Chat, Sept. 10 at 5 pm PST

World Suicide Prevention Day: One World Connected

Wednesday, September 10 at 5pm Pacific time join a special #mhsm tweetchat on self-management and resiliency for suicide prevention in bipolar disorder.

Hosted by Sandra Kiume Dawson of @unsuicide and PsychCentral, a suicide attempt survivor living well with bipolar, in collaboration with participating clinicians, peer researchers, and academics from UBC’s CREST_BD bipolar disorders research group.

All are welcome. A Twitter account is required. To learn how to participate in a tweetchat visit

iPhone 003


Peer Support Workers Wanted, Strathcona Mental Health Team, Vancouver

PSWs Wanted Strathcona


Announcing the Hearing Voices Network Study Club

Hi all,

Just wanted to let you know about the Hearing Voices Network Study Club. Details are in the flyer below. This group is open to everyone. Cheers :)

Study Club Flyer

Peer Support Worker Wanted, South Mental Health Team, Vancouver


CLOSING: June 13, 2014

ONE Contract with South Mental Health & Addictions Services, #220 (West Wing) – 1200 W. 73rd Avenue
~ 40 hours per month, 1 year contract

Job Description: Under the supervision of the Rehabilitation Supervisor or delegate, and in conjunction with treatment personnel, you will work with clients with mental illness with the objective of assisting them to achieve their stated goals. The successful candidate will be a well-organized individual who exhibits initiative, flexibility, sound judgment and good interpersonal skills. Duties include one-to-one work assisting clients in achieving goal(s), acquiring new skills or linking with community resources; communicating all relevant information verbally and in writing to pertinent staff; and attending monthly peer support worker meetings, at the team and centrally.

Qualifications: The successful individual will:
1. have completed a Peer Support Training program or have equivalent training or experience
2. have personal experience receiving services within the mental health system (required)
3. be able to be a role model to people recovering from a serious mental illness by sharing common life experiences and practical information
4. have effective strategies for dealing with stress
5. be able to work cooperatively with mental health staff, consumers and family members
6. be able to work with a culturally diverse population
7. be able to adequately access public transportation and support others with taking transit
8. be comfortable assisting with goals related to physical activity, such a going to the gym
9. be able to present in a professional manner,
10. be empathetic, patient and supportive, and
11. have knowledge of community resources and be comfortable searching for information regarding resources online and over the phone

Duration of this Placement: 1 year with possibility of renewal
You are not required to work at the team or unit where you receive service.
Pay and Hours: $12.00 an hour, up to 40 hours maximum a month (including meetings).
Start Date: July 2014

Closing Date and Location: Please submit a resume and a cover letter to via email/fax/mail:
Katie Maher, Rehabilitation Supervisor
South Mental Health & Addictions Services, #220 (West Wing) – 1200 W. 73rd Avenue,
Vancouver, B.C. V6P 6G5
Phone: 604-269-2731
Fax: 604-266-7134

No later than : June 13, 2014

Only those short listed will be contacted.