“I Did It. You can too.”

Nov. 25, 2013
Global

Tom Stolpa is a 26-year-old man with a wry sense of humor, a steady job and aspirations of achieving a doctorate. He also happens to live with bipolar disorder.

Each week, Tom goes to work at the Coulee Children’s Center in La Crosse, Wis. as a janitor. In his 12 hour a week shift, Tom helps ensure that the children have a clean environment for work and play, something he takes great pride in. Although he’s had the job for a year, it wasn’t an easy process. He admits freely that there were some significant barriers that he had to overcome in order to get work. One of those barriers was himself.

“My biggest downfall was me,” he says. He simply was not able to attain a job on his own.

At this point, Amber Kaio stepped in. Kaio is a supported employment specialist at the La Crosse County Community Support Program (CSP) and provided coaching to Tom on the application and interview process. Tom is now involved with Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Supported Employment, provided by the CSP program. IPS Supported Employment programs are designed to assist individuals living with mental illness find a job to match their individual strengths. Once a job is attained, the program provides continuous support to ensure the individual can overcome obstacles and succeed in the workplace.

After Tom started work, Kaio provided transportation and assistance in mastering his work tasks. She also continually checked in with Tom’s employer to make sure all was well from their point of view. IPS is highly receptive to the needs of their clients, and so allows for an individual’s program to change over time to suit those needs. As such, Tom is now able to work mostly on his own.
As Tom explains, work is valuable.

“Work builds character. Being praised by your boss for good work builds self-esteem and you realize if you can do this, you can do other things too.” Having a job also provides him structure and a place to relax, thus helping his mental health recovery. “When you work, you have less time to think and destabilize yourself with your thoughts” he reports.

Tom is clear that he hopes to advance his career and believes that his supported employment program will help him do it. He highly recommends it to others.

“Use this program; it will get you farther than looking for work on your own,” he says. “Don’t give up hope. The job market is tough but there are jobs out there. Get in somewhere and just get started. I did it. You can too.”

To learn more about employment and mental illness, check out www.nami.org/supportedemployment.

Comments
Mitchell Kato
Right now I have a student for arithemetic. Before I became mentally ill, I can zoom across the problems. I will know exactly how to solve problems. But now after mentally ill, I am much slower. And I see why the students have difficulity, because now, I have that problems myself. And I am not ashamed. Or at least, I need to be in communication with the student and their parent. (By the way, I hope I am not taking memory space for others' comments.) I haven't got a Japanese student yet. I had one student years ago. Buddhism may turn out interesting (I have taught Buddhism to a group of people.)
2/26/2015 11:33:32 PM

mitch kato
I am not much of a worker. I am a person who works inside of the box. So if I know the limits I can work with it. For example, if I am given a sheet of paper, I can draw anything. Again, I like reading books. Because you don't have a maze of electronic buttons that I have to push. I guess thats why the mood stablizers work well with me. Without it, I will be all over emotionally. If someone walks away a corner I start to think I won't see that person any more. If I don't take my medicine, I can feel I am going into the pits. But with books I am safe. My degree in philosophy, I took it online. I think that was a good choice for me. Everything was aligned. And I just have to bulldoze over the assignment. (Of course you got to understand the materials.)
I am also a zine maker. This fits my temperament as well. Most of them are writings. Some of them are drawings. I am trying to distribute them. Wish me luck. (I got over 100 different zines.)
As for philosophy, perhaps, I owe it all to plato. I live in my mind most of my time. Thought is my shield and so protection.

I sent another comment before. Can you attach it together.
2/21/2015 2:16:57 AM

mitch kato
I am not much of a worker. I am a person who works inside of the box. So if I know the limits I can work with it. For example, if I am given a sheet of paper, I can draw anything. Again, I like reading books. Because you don't have a maze of electronic buttons that I have to push. I guess thats why the mood stablizers work well with me. Without it, I will be all over emotionally. If someone walks away a corner I start to think I won't see that person any more. If I don't take my medicine, I can feel I am going into the pits. But with books I am safe. My degree in philosophy, I took it online. I think that was a good choice for me. Everything was aligned. And I just have to bulldoze over the assignment. (Of course you got to understand the materials.)
I am also a zine maker. This fits my temperament as well. Most of them are writings. Some of them are drawings. I am trying to distribute them. Wish me luck. (I got over 100 different zines.)
As for philosophy, perhaps, I owe it all to plato. I live in my mind most of my time. Thought is my shield and so protection.
2/21/2015 2:14:39 AM

mitch kato
I just quit my 7 year job at SAFEWAY. It will be a lie if I said I don't have some reservation. I have three philosophy connection. (a philosophy club, teaching a philosophy class, being tutored online.) My short term ambition is to start a philosophy group at NVMHI. And I am looking for tutoring position for math, Japanese (and Buddhism). I am thinking I should be able to get someone with my two BA one in math and other in philosophy.
2/21/2015 1:55:41 AM

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