Employment Can Be a Key Part of Recovery

Aug 16, 2023


Eleanor (not her real name) came to LifeWorks NW experiencing high anxiety, mania and depression, with a Bipolar 1 diagnosis. She had been experiencing frequent hospitalizations, making it difficult to maintain a job for more than a few months at a time.

Her mental health issues also negatively affected her personal relationships and led to gambling and impulsive decisions.

“At LifeWorks NW, the staff provides team-based, integrated health care,” says Sarah Whipple, Supported Employment specialist. “So, in addition to working with Beaverton Enhanced Adult Mental Health Services, her therapist, case worker and other members of the team, eventually she began working with our Supported Employment team.”

Eleanor received support with managing her depression and anxiety, starting with small goals to build her confidence. With the help of her Supported Employment team, she prepared to return to work while building a healthy work-life balance.

“She wanted a work environment where she could work with kids, that was non-competitive and offered job security,” says Sarah. “Eleanor worked as a substitute teachers’ assistant and enjoyed working with kids but didn’t like the unpredictable work schedule. She also found the school environment was triggering for her anxiety.”

Eleanor is now working as a caregiver and has successfully maintained this job for over a year. She works a consistent schedule, which is important for her, as inconsistency is an area of concern. She likes working in a home environment and helping with the kids’ day-to-day routines, rather than in a business or school environment.

“Eleanor has learned coping strategies to manage her anxiety and reports less impact from symptoms,” says Sarah. “She has shared that she has never felt healthier or happier in a job and has found a successful work-life balance. She enjoys her work and has found confidence and success and is solving problems at work with limited anxiety. She recently got married and is excited to start a family.”

Eleanor continues to work with Supported Employment, as well as her Mental Health counselor and case manager. She would like to continue working as a caregiver for as long as she can or until her husband and she start their own family and eventually would like to become a hair stylist or makeup artist.

“I couldn’t have done any of this without Supported Employment and LifeWorks NW, I just feel so grateful,” says Eleanor.