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. Volume VIII Number 5 . . . . October 5, 2001
"Funny how more people talk to you, when you have a puppy"For most adults, the ability to work, to contribute to the community and society, and to be empowered to make one's own decisions, are the hallmark of independence. For those living with mental illnesses, it is particularly important to have these abilities in the face of the stigma associated with mental illness. Working Like Crazy profiles a few of these people who are employed in businesses operated by other former mental health patients. Whether it's Fresh Start Cleaning, A-Way Courier or the Raging Spoon Restaurant, these organizations provide legitimate working experiences while making allowances for the needs of their employees. For the workers, it means an opportunity to be part of the mainstream community while building a network of support. In essence, it is a community within the community, identified by its ability to celebrate the human spirit and take charge of its own health.
Working Like Crazy interviews several mental health patients, all of whom describe their experiences with the health system, the lack of credibility they feel when dealing with health care professionals, and the absence of a voice when making their own health decisions. Diana Capponi, now a coordinator with the Ontario Council of Alternative Businesses, refers to the "Survivor Movement" as she talks about the increased legitimization of the businesses. The Council's board and members are, like herself, she says, "crazy." At A-Way Courier, Executive Director Laurie Hall doesn't have to hide her past or the scars on her arms. As a patient at the now-closed Whitby Mental Health Centre, she underwent treatment of little or no value as she dealt with her sexual identity in isolation. Workers Graham and Patricia are engaged, but the couple faces challenges because of the effect of Graham's medication on his ability to lead an active life. Since none of the workers are allowed to earn more than $160/month while on government assistance, Graham and others ultimately end up working for below minimum wage in order to have enough hours to feel that they have a "real" job.
Working Like Crazy combines interviews with footage of several individuals going about their daily routines, and, through their stories, the viewer is given an accurate picture of the backgrounds, activities, challenges, successes and camaraderie that they share. Underlying it all is one clear message: people living with mental illnesses share the same desires, needs and hopes of everyone else. For students, Working Like Crazy is a refreshing portrayal that will help create a new sense of what it means to be a person living with a mental illness.
Thomas Knutson is a Public Service Librarian with Greater Victoria Public Library.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.