For Ricky Rogers, things never came easily. He had a hard time holding a job, he wasn’t able to focus on everyday tasks, and then there were the voices he heard. But he didn’t know what was wrong. He just knew it was seriously affecting his life.
For Ricky Rogers, things never came easily. He had a hard time holding a job, he wasn’t able to focus on everyday tasks, and then there were the voices he heard.
But he didn’t know what was wrong. He just knew it was seriously affecting his life. “I grew up in an environment where no one understood what I was going through,” he said. “I always felt like something was going on. I worried a lot and couldn’t focus or do things at the same level as the other kids. I felt embarrassed that I wasn’t like everyone else. I didn’t have answers.”
Eventually, Ricky got that answer: In 2008, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He knew he had to get help. But he wasn’t sure where to start. “A big part of mental illness is having to ask for help,” he said. “And how do you tell someone you’re not normal?”
Through the services at Mental Health Centers of Central Illinois, now known as Memorial Behavioral Health, Ricky learned coping skills, began taking medication and, for the first time, met with people who understood his illness and could help him. As his symptoms diminished, he made the decision to take another big step: He wanted a job. “I was like a flower blossoming and I wanted people to see me. I wanted to get out and live life,” he said. “So I woke up and said I want to work.”
Ricky’s recovery specialist told him about MHCCI’s Individual Placement and Support (IPS) program that provides individual counseling and teaches coping skills for individuals like Ricky who lack the skills and confidence to find a job. That’s when he met John Hall, employment specialist with the program. Together, Hall helped Ricky obtain and learn how to use a computer and apply for jobs online.
The two also routinely performed mock job interviews in preparation for the real thing. Looking back on his first job interview, Ricky said, “That walk to the door was the longest walk in the world. It was like the first day of school.” Once his anxiety subsided, Ricky appreciated the training—and the confidence and support of the IPS program. “Working with John and MHCCI, they’re proud of me,” he said. “They believe in me. They believe I have the right to a job.”
Ricky began a job last February and is thriving in that role today. The IPS program arranged funding for his transportation to and from interviews and work, as well as the cost of his work uniform. He is grateful for the program and what it gave him. “I never thought I deserved a job,” he said. “But it’s a lot different when you have someone to help you. Now, I have a lot of responsibilities, a lot of work and I’m having a ball.”
“My goal now is to inspire people to be the best they can be. Don’t stay in a dark place; you can’t do it by yourself. There are good people who really care and are willing to help. Now, I’m hopeful. Every hour there’s a smile.”