In the past, I had been unable to work because my mental and physical issues were not properly treated. Working, while living with schizophrenia, is a great challenge. Many are not at the point were having a job is a viable option. There are those, however, who could work, given a proper environment, workplace accommodations, good medical treatment and a supportive community.
Employment Barriers to Working with Schizophrenia
From past experiences, I know the following to be barriers for my employment.
- Difficulties of finding work with good mental health benefits
- Work environments with strict attendance and behavioral policies.
- Certain jobs are stressful and can trigger an episode
- Co-workers can be non-supportive and hinder people with schizophrenia
In seeking a solution to these barriers, I have realized that many traditional corporate jobs are difficult to work in (When Severe Mental Illness Keeps You from Working). In identifying these barriers, I have stumbled upon occupations that were more suitable for myself. Work has lately not only been possible, but therapeutic.
Flexibility Imperative for Working with Schizophrenia
For the past two years, I have been working in real estate, buying, renovating and eventually renting out houses. This is possible because of my excellent medical care and a family which is supportive of my aspirations. The pictures above show the properties I own and some of the renovations I completed.
This work is less stressful and more elastic than most traditional jobs and is better suited for me, since sometimes I’m ill. I currently own a duplex, a house, and plan on buying a third building next year.
After my health improved, I was allowed to have access to a trust fund, that I was denied while my schizophrenia was not under control. Using this money, I began to buy properties for under $30,000 that needed some renovation. The first property I bought is completely renovated, and the second one is about halfway complete and should be ready to rent in three months. It is impossible to determine if this business adventure will be successful, but it is undoubtedly off to a good start.
Working with Schizophrenia Provides Purpose and Meaning to Life
Mental illness can be a barrier to successful employment, but it is by no means the end of the road. My properties, along with my secondary job at an amusement park, have allowed me the independence and freedom that I could only dream of a few years ago. They have also given me purpose and meaning, while giving me something to do.
By no means am I implying that everyone with severe mental illness should pursue a real estate business venture. I am, however, implying that some people should think about what jobs would be suitable for them given their current situation (Finding the Right Work for You: An ADHD Guide). For others, work is not currently a viable option, but easily could be in the future.
Work is an important part of life, and finding suitable employment under the right conditions can help give meaning, purpose and hope to people with Schizophrenia. Employers should also place stigma by the wayside, and give people with Schizophrenia a chance to succeed and flourish. Some, given proper treatment, can be productive members of society.
If it was not for my labor, these buildings might still be vacant. Schizophrenia never stopped me from completing my projects, like it should never stop anyone else. Eventually, I hope to one day build homes for people with disabilities who have been in similar situations as myself.
Success and independence is possible with schizophrenia, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If employers would better accommodate people with schizophrenia they might find people who can be beneficial employees. If more patients would adhere to treatment plans, they might find themselves capable of employment. I am sure that someday in the future people will realize this, and a solution will be found that benefits everyone.