Rehabilitative Volunteerism Improves Skills and Changes Lives of Participants
Mental health patients refine job skills through work training program
Learn. Practice. Refine. This may sound like the typical schooling sequence for a student in any course of study, but for 13 Chicagoans with emotional and mental health conditions, this is the sequence that is changing their lives. The group of adults is participating in the Clerical Crew, an innovative class offered through Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Stone Institute of Psychiatry that provides patients with psychological disorders an opportunity to volunteer their time and services in exchange for training geared to securing and maintaining employment.
“The Clerical Crew class has been a turning point of many lives,” said Jean Goldrosen, senior occupational therapist and one of the founders of the class. “It provides an invaluable outlet for people affected with severe psychological disorders. When I see the groups of people who have worked through this class positively change their lives, I can’t help but to be proud,” added Goldrosen.
The Clerical Crew training, combined with individual and or group therapies, provides those who have been severely affected by their conditions a chance to develop confidence and skills that are vital to functioning in a realistic work environment. Often times, members of the class are learning how to manage living with a psychological disorder, or recovering from addiction or a nervous breakdown. The class provides the participants with direction needed for reintegration into society.
The class meets twice a week and simulates a realistic work environment. Goldrosen and Kathy Bartoli, an occupational therapist who also runs the class, act as job supervisors and evaluate attendance, attention to detail and teamwork. “The Clerical Crew has helped people move on to full-time, part-time and volunteer positions. There have even been members of the crew who have taken the basic skills that they learned and gone to college to earn a degree,” said Bartoli.
Ella Haley, a recent graduate of the class, credits the Clerical Crew in helping her move forward. “The class really made me think about where I would be five, even 10 years from now. After my nervous breakdown, it made me realize that I need to try and accomplish my goals. I learned that if you don’t try, you will never know what you could have done.”
Haley, who is now a student at a local community college and working toward a career in early childhood development, hopes to reverse the stigma that people with mental illness face. “I have battled so many things, but this class got me going again. Now look where I am,” said Haley.
Founded in 2000, the Clerical Crew has established working relationships with many community businesses and non-profit organizations that supply projects that need collating, binding and filing. These hands-on skills allow members of the class to focus on learning creative problem solving, attention to detail and organization skills, all of which help boost their confidence and assertiveness.
For more information about the program or bringing work to the Clerical Crew class, contact Jean Goldrosen or Kathy Bartoli at 312-926-8638.