Sam: Investing in Work

In his career as a county mental health social worker, Sam became an advocate for people living with mental illness. He estimates he has served as a caseworker for 1,000 people over the years. He views mental illness as only one characteristic of a person, using his mother as an example.

She was my mom who made goulash way too many times every week. I hate goulash. Well, it’s mostly tomatoes. Just think stewed tomatoes with a cupful of other things. . . Her favorite color was purple. Every spring she would plant some pink flowers and purple flowers. She liked Alfred Hitchcock movies and she had bipolar. So that is how I see the world. It’s a characteristic.

His experience with mental illness in his family and his faith in God guide Sam’s life work. He reflected on how he is using “what was harrowing and so debilitating” at one time in his life to support others through his work. He explained, “I’ve shared with other people that when they have a tragedy, this doesn’t make sense now, but wait 10 years, 20 years and it might make sense. I saw that. It’s an obvious benefit that came from pain.”

Sam acknowledged that while most people working in mental health services are caring, respectful, and kind, there are a few who are in the wrong job because they desire authority and power. These days he finds it difficult to find residential and inpatient beds, which sometimes means requiring clients to seek services a long distance away and wastes time and money. This situation contrasts with his mother’s experience of finding a hospital bed in the late 1960s and early 1970s on the same day of her mental health crisis.

He also pointed out the challenges of expensive medications and the need for client education on side effectsrisk of overdose, weight gain, and tardive dyskinesia. In recent years, he has seen more caution in prescribing medications in an effort to reduce the incidence of tardive dyskinesia.

Note: Tardive dyskinesia is a side effect from antipsychotic medications that results in stiff, jerky movements of one’s face and body that cannot be controlled voluntarily.

Sam recommended NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) resources for family members. He talked about the importance of having someone to talk to, someone that a person can trust. He connected the availability of counseling to healing from emotional distress. He knows how critical counseling is to healing because his family did not have it.

Note: NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is a mental health advocacy organization at national and state levels that offers a multitude of informational material, classes, and support groups.

More of the Story: Finding New Relationships