STAMFORD, Conn. — The following is a letter from Linda Autore, president and chief executive officer of the Laurel House, a Stamford-based organization that provides resources and opportunities to people with mental illnesses. All letters can be submitted to the Daily Stamford Voice via email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
To the Editor:
Mental illness and recovery are not words you often see together. But the fact is that at Laurel House our mission is to assist those living with mental illness to achieve recovery. With proper care and treatment, between 70 percent and 90 percent of persons with mental illness experience a significant reduction of symptoms and an improved quality of life.
Many of the participants in Laurel House’s programs think of themselves as being "in recovery." They recognize that they have a condition that may require lifelong managing. But they are engaged in a process to reduce the worst effects of their illness while following typical and normal pursuits such as education, employment and social relationships that will help them become participants in the communities where they live.
At Laurel House, we support the recovery process by emphasizing each individual’s strengths and helping them develop goals for their personal development. We also work with clients’ families and friends, where possible, to strengthen and enhance the natural support systems that already exist, the importance of which cannot be overstated.
I would like to share the results of our Resources to Recover efforts with two stories of how we have encouraged change in people’s lives and helped them become productive citizens. The first, we’ll call Gerard. When he came to Laurel House he was anxious and not confident about returning to work. He started weekly meetings with a Laurel House employment specialist. After a number of these sessions, his coach helped him find an opening at a major national retail store where he worked alongside another Laurel House program participant. He became more confident, socially comfortable, and a sense of humor emerged. Ninety days later, a national hospitality facility hired him part time. As of this writing, he has held down both positions for nearly a year and only occasionally needs to check in with his coach for support.
After years of institutional living in a mental health facility, another client, Chuck, moved to one of Laurel House’s supportive housing apartments. Formerly homeless and a veteran, he has now lived with us for 26 years and over that period of time had seven different apartment mates. He continues to work hard with our life skills coaches to maintain daily living skills – cooking, cleaning, budgeting, etc. He also engages socially within the Stamford community.
In the not so distant past, a diagnosis of mental illness was cause for despair and shame. Today, organizations like Laurel House are destigmatizing mental illness by providing resources, services and supports that aid people in recovery. And, step by step, those individuals who participate in our programs can in fact recover.
For further information about Laurel House, visit its website.