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Mentally Ill Man Overcomes Odds

Updated: Saturday, July 19 2014, 01:37 AM CDT

ILLINOIS -- A recent report puts the unemployment rate of individuals receiving public health services for mental illness at more than 80 percent.

This is only a portion of the total mentally ill population, about 7.1 million Americans, who the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which released the report, refer to as people with a "serious mental illness." Meanwhile experts estimate one out of five of the 316 million Americans will suffer from mental illness at some point in their life.

Still, mental health professionals tell us the mentally ill face a variety of challenges; working around symptoms, dealing with the extra anxiety from a mental illness, and of course, the stigma.

However, among the doom and gloom, there's also success.

When in his early 20's, Ricky Rogers didn't know what was happening to him. He had problems with his decision making

"My decision making was, you know, it wasn't stable. It didn't have no sense to what I was doing, and I medicated with street drugs," Rogers said.

In 2006, he got a diagnosis. Schizophrenia - a mental illness afflicting about 1 percent of Americans.

"And when I found out, and the things that I did, it was like 'oh, okay. Now that explains why,'" Rogers said.

With a diagnosis in hand, he got the help he needed, not least of which, the training and preparation to get and hold a job through the Individual Placement & Support Program, run through the Mental Health Centers of Central Illinois.

The agency, he says, helped him develop the confidence he had lacked before.

"I just really just didn't think that I could maintain a job with this mental illness," he said.

But when he got into the IPS program, "And they come in and say, 'No. You are entitled to employment. You are entitled to a job."

So he got one. While talking with his counselor at IPS, he weighed his options.

"I said 'well, I like to eat. I like sweets,'" Rogers explained

The next step was obvious.

"So I end up making donuts," he said. "It was just wonderful."

Rogers credits the help he got through IPS with his success in finding a steady, and delicious, job.

"We give them the information that they may not already know to get their foot in the door," said Kristy Crouse, the IPS program supervisor.

Crouse says confidence problems can keep mentally ill people from getting work, but the stigma of mental illness is another enormous hurdle.

"There can be and are some business that think 'mental illness' and they really go into the worse place in terms of 'are they capable and willing to work,'" Rogers said.

That stigma, Rogers said, was why he wanted to speak out.

"With a little help, you know, you know, people can change for the best," he said.
For more information on the Individual Placement & Support Program, or the Mental Health Centers of Central Illinois click here.Mentally Ill Man Overcomes Odds

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