May Is Mental Health Month Kick Off Event
Hi. My name is Jackie Eastman. I was diagnosed with clinical depression when I was eighteen. I spent a great deal of time in hospitals trying to find
the right mix of medications. I had dreams of going into the military. I had taken four years of ROTC at Coventry High School and would have started
out with a stripe in the Air Force. But I ended up having a child at age 19. I currently have five children and nine grandchildren.
Rhode Island State House
April 29, 2010
While raising my children, I was an active part of their lives—such as being a soccer coach, team mom, and an educational advocate. However, during
that time, I could also be very symptomatic with my depression and I was often in and out of the hospital. There were times when I could not get out
of bed to shower, or to take care of my children the way they needed to be taken care of. My children did everything they could to help me overcome
my symptoms. One June, they even put up a real Christmas tree with lights and presents. As hard as I tried, I couldn't participate and enjoy the event. The children were disappointed once again.
It took many years of medication changes and therapy to finally get me to a point of stability. The Kent Center has been a
mainstay throughout my adult life, and has never given up on me even when I have. I wasn't the easiest client to treat, and
there were many times when I didn't want treatment. Despite that, they stood by me through thick and thin. Once my
medication was stabilized and therapy was in place, I was given a wonderful case manager who introduced me to Hillsgrove House.
Hillsgrove House is one of many clubhouses throughout the United States and around the world. They were formed to help members with mental illness come
together to socialize and support one another. It is a place that helps to build self-esteem and stamina so that people can begin joining the workforce. The club
offers three types of work programs and I am currently in what they call Transitional Employment. In this type, the clubhouse owns the job, trains you, and
provides ongoing support. I work 10 hours a week for six months. After six months, someone else gets the opportunity to work the job. Some jobs allow for up to 20
hours per week. These jobs help to build self-confidence, learn skills, and build up one's resume.
Just before I went to Hillsgrove House, I was displaced and had nowhere to go. I
had just found out that for the second time I had breast cancer. The Kent Center, Hillsgrove House and my case manager all came together and began helping me to
complete housing applications for several places. Because I was homeless, combined with my mental illness, I was qualified to move into a Kent Center
supervised apartment. I moved into the Robert Street apartments and the staff took very good care of me during that time. I eventually had to undergo a double
mastectomy, and during my recuperation, the staff checked on me often to see if I needed anything. Hillsgrove House sent out meals and cards regularly.
Another wonderful thing that has come out of living at Roberts Street is my interest in art. One of the staff members, Kate, has
organized a group of us to explore our hidden artistic talents. We work in several different mediums, and are known as the
Roberts Street Artists. We have already had several art shows, had our own show in local galleries, and I have even sold a few
pieces. It is a great way to express my feelings; a great release of frustration and other emotions.
As I moved along in my recovery, The Kent Center introduced me to one of the most important parts of my recovery. DBT, or
Dialectical Behavior Therapy, is a behavioral therapy course that I must say is the one thing that has helped me to learn about
myself. I am learning some of the reasons I behave the way I do, and how to get in touch with what I am feeling. It is a very valuable tool, and should be available to everyone, especially the younger generation.
Because of The Kent Center, Hillsgrove House, DBT, Roberts Street, and my desire to grow as a person, I have come a long
way. I have not been hospitalized nearly as often as I have in the past. I have a better understanding of my illness, and my life feels like I am growing, and becoming a valued participant of society.
I will leave you with this—I have five wonderful children that I have great respect for and the feeling is mutual. We share
everything and I enjoy their company. As for my grandchildren, they are my life. I love spending time with them, watching each
and every milestone they reach. I go to the basketball or baseball games of my oldest grandchild, and will do that for all my grandchildren. As I said, they are my life -- and it's a wonderful life!