When I was very young, I was taught that life was meant for suffering, that God is angry with us. Twenty-some years later I tried to kill myself in an acute schizophrenic episode. Others were injured as well, and after a jury trial where I was found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity I was placed under the supervision of the Court and experienced – all told – well over half a decade in a psychiatric hospital.
Time passed – slowly. I discovered who my enemies were, and I overcame them. Almost 40 years after my initial breakdown, I was on the right side of the keys to the jail cells. I had written a book, and it was generating interest.
Recently I was invited on a tour of the Bergen County (NJ) jail where I saw once again the suffering of the mentally ill. Suffering is chronic for this class of people.
Remembering my days past, I asked my guide, “Do they know where they are?”
“They seem to.”
I thought I knew where I was that 40 years ago, but I was in a world of fantasy and delusion. Today I believed these people were no better off. Maybe medication made a difference. But we want to help them. We want them to live a life of joy and happiness, not just some subsistence level of living in a locked room.
What can we do to get these people jobs, improve their lives? Well, first we must address their illnesses. Research into better drugs and gene therapy, for example. But are jobs the only thing we want for them? Some can’t handle the stress of having the responsibility of a job.
I can and have handled the stress. I ran multi-million-dollar projects in New York City for twenty years for Con Edison, improving service and winning industry awards. And I believe there is more that I can do.