“Annette’s” struggles began at age 14, when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It was at this time, that her mother, also suffering from this illness, committed suicide. When she needed friends the most, she was ostracized by her schoolmates once they learned of her illness. Throughout her life she had the loving support of her father and sisters.

Annette’s 26 year struggle to take control of her illness was sidelined numerous times due to repeated hospitalizations. For this reason, it took her 10 years to earn her Bachelor’s Degree. Her efforts to be independent were also impacted by her illness costing her to lose employment several times.

In 2001, Annette sought help at Pacific Clinics. As she started to manage her symptoms, her work hours and responsibilities were increased. She was doing well until 2003 when she relapsed and was hospitalized four times in an eight month period. It was during this period that she learned self-help techniques to gain control of her illness–and she’s never looked back.

Once back at work, she worked part time in Pacific Clinics outpatient and day treatment CalWORKs program. Now that she has her life on track, she shares her personal experience with clients and works hard with them to help them understand that they too can gain control of their illness.

In just five years, she went from consumer to a full time mental health worker (case manager) at Pacific Clinics. She has been struggling with her illness for 26 years yet she never gave up hope. Her compassionate and heartfelt message to others with mental illness is, “If I can do it, you can do it too.”

A true story from Pacific Clinics, Arcadia, CA


“Steven,” who suffers from bipolar and OCD was at times so out of control that he would assault verbally (and sometimes physically) the very people who were trying to help him. His OCD symptoms resulted in such excessive hoarding that he was evicted from many apartments, and had three homes condemned! Steven was simply a mess.

Finally, Steven started working with a PACT team, who helped him obtain stable housing and organize his apartment. Starting with the team wasn’t easy as he didn’t trust them at first. The PACT team encouraged and supported Steven in an effort to put his life back together. However, Steven was able to overcome his doubt and finally realize that he was in the driver’s seat of his own recovery.

He is now enrolled at a local community college and earning excellent grades.  Steven is continuing with his recovery and now has hope for the future. He has certainly come a long way in his recovery and looks forward to making more progress.

After finishing his education, Steven wants to become a peer counselor and use his experiences to give others hope. He believes hope is the key to helping people overcome and manage mental illness.

A true story from Fellowship Health Resources, Inc., New Bedford, MA


“Mirna” is the youngest of five women from a Mexican family. Her father had come to the U.S. several years before the rest of his family to work in the fields. The children were raised here. For a long time, the family struggled to survive and none of the children were able to finish school.

A CalWORKs H.A. counselor who works with the Adult Education program received a request to see Mirna because she was in a personal crisis. At 21 years old, she had two children and was in a relationship where she experienced domestic violence. She had few English language skills and no job.

Mirna began participating in the mental health treatment program, attending individual and group sessions. During this time, she communicated that she had other sisters in similar situations. All of them were invited by Catholic Charities to various activities, workshops, monthly family meetings, and some individual advisory sessions.

Mirna and her sisters were encouraged to change their lives by overcoming barriers to becoming not only emotionally but also economically self-sufficient.

Mirna remained highly motivated and has accomplished many important goals despite her personal difficulties. She continued studying ESL and is now working toward earning a GED. As part of her efforts to reorganize her life, Mirna has also worked to improve her parenting skills. Currently, she works as a janitor at night and volunteers in the mornings as an administrative assistant. She is planning to work in the property management in the future.

The family recently pooled their assets in order to buy their first home together. This would only have been possible through the emotional growth they experienced, which was the important first step to attaining self-sufficiency. Mirna’s story is evidence of the support, guidance, and compassion that helps individuals in crisis gain the resources and determination they need to accomplish their life goals.

A true story from Catholic Charities’ CalWORKs Health Alliance Mental Health Program, San Jose, CA


Shirley moved into her community almost 35 years ago. Employed in the retail field, she had steadily moved up the ladder — from merchandising, to managing a department, to opening a new store.

But things weren’t all they seemed. After the sudden and unexpected loss of a sibling, Shirley became depressed and started drinking heavily. For almost 10 years, she moved from job to job to avoid being caught. But eventually she lost her job, and had a heart attack.

She had become friends with a community mental health authority employee who suggested she visit a group for people with mental illness to get support and encouragement and see a counselor.

Shirley was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Six months later ? with therapy, medication, and alcoholism education — the highs and lows had evened out and the panic/anxiety attacks had stopped.

Today, Shirley works with the homeless and mentally ill at the same center that helped her regain control of her life.

A true story from Southwest Counseling Solutions, Detroit, MI

(Success stories taken from The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare (National Council) website)

NPR Series on the road back to work after long periods of unemployment