People diagnosed with a mental health condition are often shunned or blamed for their illness and can find it difficult to hold down a job, make friends and live an independent, dignified life. Ninety percent remain unemployed. Many end up in prison or on government assistance. The Academy at Glengary, which opened two years ago, is providing hope, job skills and a sense of community to people who have been shut out because of anxiety, depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other conditions.
Work is the main focus, and the Academy trains its clients—called members—in fields from the culinary arts to technology to customer service. On any one day, 20 people are inside the Academy, which is part of a worldwide network of more than 300 programs in 32 countries, working one-on-one with vocational trainers and coaches. Once the in-house training is finished, members travel to work sites with their job coaches for the extra support they’ll need until they can work independently.
Aaron Collmer, a 42-year-old diagnosed with depression, is one of the Academy’s members. “I could only hold down a job for one or two days because of my anxiety and depression,” he says. After job training at the Academy he’s found employment as a toll booth cashier at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, lives independently and is a role model at the Academy, hosting a weekly radio show and supporting other members. “I’ve made a lot of good friends here,” he says.
William McKeever, the executive director, says members have found work in restaurants, grocery stores, the Public Defender’s Office, car dealerships and at catering companies. “We want to be a center of wellness,” he says. “Our job is to provide them with the opportunities to move forward. There’s dignity in that.”