Organization aims to put mentally ill back to work

Organization aims to put mentally ill back to work

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The National Alliance on Mental Health aims to help those who struggle with mental illness cope with the challenges associated with their disease. One of the biggest issues: finding and keeping employment.

"One in five Americans struggles with a mental illness," explains Stephen Akinduro, NAMI representative and sufferer. "A lot of people don't know that, but it's more common than it's-- than people realize."

In the U.S., 80 percent of people with mental illness are unemployed. Sixty percent of that population wants to work, but less than two percent feel they have supported employment. It's a struggle Akinduro knows first-hand.

He adds"I also struggle with mental illness, with major depression, anxiety and PTSD."

Akinduro tells us that he's suffered from these ailments for nearly 20 years -- and his on-again, off-again struggle has cost him.

"I've lost a number of jobs. I've had to go on Social Security. I've had to have family members take care of me," Akinduro tells News Leader Nine.

But since 2009 Akinduro has worked the NAMI Columbus to keep others from having similar experiences maintaining or getting a job.

"Because a lot of employers are not really familiar with how to help, it's very difficult for them to keep people who are struggling without realizing," he said "okay, these are the symptoms that they're struggling with. It is no representative of the individual."

Akinduro tells us NAMI Columbus offers support groups and workshops to educate dozens of sufferers and employers right here in The Valley of this fact in hopes removing the stigma.

"Mental disorders are biologically based disorders that may have environmental triggers and its nothing to be ashamed of anymore than someone who has cancer, high blood pressure or diabetes," Akinduro reassures.

NAMI Columbus says local corporations like TSYS have already implemented programs to help them help employees who suffer from mental illness and others are in the works. For more about the National Alliance on Mental Illness, head to http://www.nami.org/MSTemplate.cfm?MicrositeID=178.

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