Benz: Graduating to Greater Independence

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What does mental health recovery look like? For Benz, who made his way to Massachusetts after leaving Haiti at the age of eight, recovery means independence and giving back to the people who have helped him along the way. 

Life for Benz always has had its ups and downs. He was in and out of hospitalization for mental health challenges. Throughout those years, his biggest obstacle, he says, was “asking people for help and letting people know I’m not doing well.” 

In 2011, Benz spent three months in the hospital, which lead to losing the housing subsidiary he had at that time. Homeless, Benz transferred to respite services and moved into an Advocates group home in Hyde Park. Benz says, “Living [at Hyde Park] was a good experience and helped me get back into the community. I received the supports and information I needed to get the help I needed.”

Benz became self-aware, mindful, and confident by utilizing resources from the staff at Advocates. He attended peer support groups, learned dialectical behavioral therapy skills, and connected with a community of people with shared experiences. He shares, “Being diagnosed and getting help made me more humble, relatable, sympathetic, and understanding.” 

In July 2014, Benz moved out of the group home into his own apartment. He began to build structure in his life, stay socially active, and take care of his physical health. By attending a healthy eating workshop at Advocates, Benz learned tips on managing disease, eating healthy, and exercising. Now Benz has time for hobbies--walking, riding his bike, cooking, and learning to play guitar—that keep him active. 

As a vital community member, Benz visits the guys in the group home where he once resided. He also keeps in touch with Casmira (Cazzie) Kostigen, psychiatric rehabilitation specialist at Advocates. Cazzie says, “Benz is a very big motivation to the guys in Hyde Park. He’s a staple on our team.”

Benz recently celebrated his graduation from Adult Community Clinical Services (ACCS) at Advocates. Graduating from ACCS is different for everyone. Benz succeeded by maintaining stable housing and medication management, building day structure, and working towards employment and school. 

Today, Benz continues living independently in his apartment in Norwood. His current goals are to go back to school to study health information management and find a clerical or administrative part-time job. He stays purposefully involved in the Advocates community and instills hope in others’ journey to recovery. 

When asked what he would share with someone going through similar challenges, he says, “With time and effort, and working on your challenges, things will get better.” He’s a strong believer in the commonly used phrase, “This too shall pass.”