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Local NAMI chapter holds mental wellness classes at two metro locations

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Augusta Cox speaks with Calvin Lewis, left, and Aaron Formhals during a Wellness Workshop at Lottie House, Wednesday, 7-5-15.  mh
  • Augusta Cox speaks with Calvin Lewis, left, and Aaron Formhals during a Wellness Workshop at Lottie House, Wednesday, 7-5-15. mh

Augusta Cox, outreach coordinator for the Oklahoma chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), knows firsthand how difficult enduring and recovering from serious mental illness can be.

She is determined to help others recover and regain employment through a series of free workshops that are open to people 16 and older and their family members.

Working Towards Wellness workshops began Aug. 4 and take place over an eight-week period. Tuesday sessions are held at 1 p.m. at OCARTA Wellness Hub, 2808 NW 31st St., and Wednesday sessions are held at 11 a.m. at Lottie House, 1311 N. Lottie Ave.

Each year in the U.S., 1 in 25 adults — or 13.6 million people — experiences a mental illness so serious that it will disrupt major life activities. The stigma of living with a mental illness can become an insurmountable barrier.

As the mind unravels, so do relationships, jobs and all of the things that come together to create the fabric of one’s life.

Five years ago, Cox began experiencing a series of mental breaks and was ultimately diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. At the time, Cox was 33 and, like many people her age, was establishing her career. She earned a master’s degree and was working 60-hour weeks as a financial advisor.

Cox is quick to share her story and does so with candor and grace.

“My first mental break happened around 2 a.m.,” she said. “The voices told me that people were out to kill me and my mother. They told me to leave the house right now and to get everyone out of the house. I woke my mom up and told her we had to leave right then, and she wanted to change clothes, but I wouldn’t let her. We got in the car, and the voices told me we could go back home, that this was just a test.”

Other times voices told her that Osama bin Laden would decapitate her in front of her mother. Pleasant voices told her that Hillary Clinton and Oprah wanted to talk to her.

During her most recent mental break, voices said al Qaeda had infiltrated the FBI, so she needed to swallow every pill in the house.

Cox’s voice cracked as she talked about her mother’s love.

“My mother never stopped, never gave up. She literally tackled me to the ground and was pulling pills out of my mouth,” she said.

Cox’s illness left her changed and gave her a very intense desire to help others. She lives successfully with paranoid schizophrenia and said work was the catalyst for her recovery.

“I want to spend the rest of my life helping people with serious mental illness overcome the barriers that keep them from working,” she said.

Weekly topics for the Working Toward Wellness workshops are varied, and future sessions include Telling Your Own Story (Wednesday, Aug. 12), Career Brainstorming (Tuesday and Wednesday, Aug. 19), Personal Treatment Plans (Aug. 25-26), Developing Confidence and Self-Esteem (Sept. 1-2), What about My Benefits (Sept. 8-9), I Need My Healthcare to Be Successful (Sept. 15-16), What Other Help is Available? (Sept. 22-23) and What About School? (Sept. 29-30).

Learn more about NAMI at nami.org.

 

Print headline: Living work, Weekly workshops help those living with serious mental illness regain employment.

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