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Bruce V. - Bureau Chief, Office of Family and Consumer Affairs

Bruce V. - “The KEY Consumer Organization welcomed me warmly and gave me much needed support. They also offered me a job, and I began my first real employment experience at age 29.”

Background

Bruce is Bureau Chief at the Office of Family and Consumer Affairs in the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addictions. He has held this position for three years. Prior to this, Bruce worked for eleven years with a local Community Mental Health Center, including working as Executive Director for a Clubhouse.

Bruce became ill with schizophrenia at age 10, which went untreated for seven years. He was in and out of psychiatric hospitals for over a decade. He experienced alcoholism, drug addiction, and homelessness, and survived two suicide attempts.

In 1990 Bruce was introduced to a peer-run group, the KEY (Knowledge Empowers You) Consumer Organization. “They welcomed me warmly and gave me much needed support. They also offered me a job, and I began my first real employment experience at age 29,”says Bruce. After two years of part-time work, Bruce enrolled in a community college and earned an Associates of Science Degree in Substance Abuse Counseling.

During this same time, Bruce was accepted into a state-run trial of a new medication. The program required a commitment to stay on the medication for two years, a commitment Bruce honored even though the medication’s side effects made his pledge a struggle. The side effects eventually decreased, and today, Bruce’s condition is stabilized.

Bruce says, “That medication had much to do with me getting clean and sober. I have been clean and sober for more than 15 years.”

Disclosing His Disability

The job description for Bureau Chief gives preference to a consumer of mental health and addiction services, so Bruce felt comfortable about disclosing his schizophrenia to his supervisor. Although Bruce has not needed to request reasonable accommodations, he reports directly to the Director of the Division of Mental Health and Addictions and could easily request an accommodation at any time. Bruce has been well-accepted in the Division where he is part of the leadership team. He feels highly valued and is often asked to participate in other projects.

Additional Comments

Bruce has two comments. First, “believe in your recovery and don’t give up. You have to believe in your own recovery, because if you don’t, you won’t. That’s why peer support is so important. Members of a peer group can take their lived, personal experience and help a person see that recovery is possible.”

“Second, peer support is the flip side of peer pressure. When I was 13, other kids started experimenting with drugs and alcohol. I didn’t use drugs or alcohol because Mom and Dad had said ‘don’t do it; it’s wrong.’ But finally I gave in to peer pressure and started using. Now flip that over to positive peer support. For me, my recovery started with the positive peer influence I found in the KEY Consumer Organization. Being in a group of people who are just like I am and are in recovery and doing positive things enabled me to get into recovery from mental illness. Peer support helped me recover from addiction as well.”

Bruce has received several local and regional awards, including the 2009 National Alliance on Mental Illness Lionel Aldridge Award, given annually to someone with mental illness for their courage, leadership, and service on behalf of all people who live with mental illness.