HopeWorx, building the road to a better recovery

By Jessica Tennett
April 6, 2016

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HopeWorx creates special programs for those who are affected to gain necessary skills. Photo by Jess Tennet

Mental Illness is often categorized as a disease that cannot be treated, and that once diagnosed, a normal life is not possible. People often believe that those with mental illness are incapable of living normal lives, but in reality, they are capable of living lives just like anyone else.

In 1994, the Consumer Satisfaction Team of Montgomery County was founded. Eventually the team moved on to advocacy programs and turning their work place into an opportunity for those with lived experience to gain skills for the workplace. Thus, in 2010, they changed their name to HopeWorx.

HopeWorx does more than advocate for those with lived experience. They have created programs to help those who are affected gain the necessary skills to make a healthy recovery.

“Unless people have a personal experience with people who have lived with mental illness, many people think of mental illness as a specific label, a diagnosis that is clear and defines a person experience,” Sue Shannon, the executive director of HopeWorx, said.

The problem is that people assume that everyone with a specific mental illness experiences the same symptoms. For example, bi-polar disorder is comprised of several symptoms and every person lives and deals with the symptoms differently.

HopeWorx strives to build community through different events and partnerships with outside groups or schools. They are in partnership with an ECG 200 level class at Cabrini called HopeWorx: Advocacy and Empowerment in Montgomery County.

The class is taught by Cassie Beckowski, and the goal of the class is to provide students with a better understanding of Mental Health. There is a big connection between education and advocacy. Their small efforts can bring about a big change in society.

”Small efforts can bring about significant changes, whether in the life of one person, the operations of an organization like HopeWorx, or the reform of a policy or system,” Cassie Beckowski, an ECG 200 level teacher, said.

HopeWorx benefits from Cabrini students because it helps them look at their mission through the eyes of people outside the mental health community. By working with students they are raising their community and awareness by students creating twitter posts, and creating a “brand” for themselves.

“I hope that students in the social justice classes that have worked on projects around the work of HopeWorx have gained as much insight as we have from the process of collaborating,” Shannon said.

HopeWorx does not just work with those individuals gaining skills for the workplace, but with family members on how to self-advocate. They also have a HopeMarket, which anyone can attend to buy items for their house.

“Working with HopeWorx last year challenged me to start thinking intentionally and deeply about the significance and impact of mental health in our society,”Beckowski said.

Individuals work with doctors, therapists, and other supporters that they choose on their specific mental health issues. This in turn helps them find a recovery path that works best for them, and the people around them.

“This class has made me think about mental health in a different way,” Frankie Formisiano, a sophomore exercise science major, said ” It is such an underrated topic in politics and congress.”

Jessica Tennett

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