Employment Promotes Mental Wellness

December 6, 2023

Employment Promotes Mental Wellness

Studies show that those with a sense of purpose live longer, have lower stress levels, and better cognitive functioning. A recent study focusing on individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder revealed better outcomes for those who were focused on achieving employment goals. The CalWORKS program primarily serves individuals who receive public assistance and encounter mental health barriers that make it challenging to either obtain or maintain employment. Our clients face several life difficulties that impact their success in the workforce including but not limited to domestic violence, trauma, poverty, criminal backgrounds, homelessness, lack of experience and/or high school diploma, mental illness, and their need to care for their young children; just to name a few. It’s time to meet our AV Clinic CalWORKS Employment Specialists, Cristina Solis and Cynthia Barajas. Their primary role is to support clients as they embark on their journey to engage in employment focused mental health services. Both employment specialists agree that clients usually start the Supported Employment Program feeling discouraged and unprepared to obtain employment. With their enthusiastic attitudes and special knack for helping clients recognize their strengths, Employment Specialists work hand in hand with the therapist and case manager to provide clients with a support system that has proven to help them achieve the success that they want and need. Cristina and Cynthia believe in the 5 P’s, “Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance”.

The 5 P’s were evident with 2 clients in particular, Holly Hall and Maria Aguilar, as they worked diligently with their employment specialists and therapist week after week until they found the right job opportunity. When asked about employment as it relates to mental wellness Maria stated, “My biggest challenge was getting discouraged, however my therapist and employment specialist helped me feel like my life still matters. I learned to remain positive as everything comes in time. I met with my employment specialist weekly and continued to apply for jobs. My job helps me feel important and needed. I’m so thankful to all my workers and the help they gave me.” We asked Holly Hall what advice she’d give others and she shared, “I would tell others to keep looking for a rewarding career because when they find something that makes them happy, they will enjoy working and doing something with purpose”. Holly also stated, “My job makes me feel important, I have gained self-confidence, and it helps me feel a sense of belonging”. Here at Penny Lane, we of course acknowledge how important that sense of belonging is as it relates to mental wellness. I’d say a sense of belonging and purpose are two major reasons why we promote our heart centered culture here.

Supported Employment is not the only service we offer here in our CalWORKS program in the AV. This is an evidenced based intervention that has been proven helpful to individuals with even the most severe mental health disabilities and to increase mental wellness and success in integrated, competitive employment. Cristina and Cynthia both shared some wellness tips of their own as they both acknowledged how important it is to find their own ways to connect with each client to help them achieve their goals. Cynthia pointed out that having a support system such as a team to lean on when feeling stuck with clients has always made her feel more positive at work, which also helps her model positive thinking for her clients who may be feeling discouraged. Cristina stated that she loves her job because she can instill hope in others and reflect on times when she too was unemployed, which motivates her even more to believe in her clients even when they struggle with believing in themselves. Cristina and Cynthia, we appreciate your heart centered approach in motivating our clients to increase mental and overall wellness. Keep up the great work!

-Fanta Ritchie, Penny Lane Centers