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The Struggle of Making a Living with Schizophrenia

moneyIt’s an all too common fact that a good majority of homeless people have some kind of mental illness. Whether it’s diagnosed or not there’s a good chance that the reason they’re on the street is because they can’t hack living in today’s society.

The economy is hard for everyone but it’s even harder for a young person with schizophrenia.

A lot of the time, jobs are impossible because of the severity of a person’s symptoms. It’s either too stressful, or they have a hard time performing the necessary tasks, or they have strange behaviors that lead their employer to fire them. I know this all too well. That’s the reason writing is the perfect job for me. I’m only accountable to myself, I can work at my own pace, and I don’t have to worry about working with other people.

That said, making a living as a writer is hard. I rely on government benefits like disability, SSI, food stamps and Section 8 housing vouchers to get by, and I still find myself going into debt every month, which is not a good source of stress for someone in my position.

These are all great benefits though, and they’ve helped tremendously, and I do recommend them for anyone in my situation who’s having a rough go at it. With that in mind though, there are some definite drawbacks and it could take years of frustration before you have access to these benefits.

It’s no wonder that a lot of people with mental illness wind up with no place to live or no income when they’ve exhausted their resources.

Even if you do get benefits the drawbacks include not choosing where you want to live, not being able to choose your doctor and being reliant on government bureaucracy. Sometimes you can’t get the meds you need, sometimes you can’t get an appointment with the psychiatrist, and sometimes your food stamp money runs out in the first trip to the store. It’s extremely hard to get off these benefits too, given your limited capabilities with finding a job and actually being to perform that job for more than a couple weeks or months at a time.

I was denied three times for disability before I got it and each cycle lasted about a year in itself. It was also imperative that the paperwork was right, there was so much paperwork my dad had to take a class on how to handle all of it.

In a perfect world, people with mental illness would be able to focus on their recovery first and foremost without having to worry about not having a roof over their heads and food on the table, but that’s just not a reality, and though I’d like to call someone, anyone, to task for that, I’ve learned that I have to rely on myself to get what I want out of life. I have to hustle and sweat and bleed and demand what I need to live comfortably from the world, as so many people do.

Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with a family that cares enough to help with getting benefits and supplemental things like meals, cell phone, internet and everything I need to do my job. I can only imagine how hard it would be to not have family and to be on your own with a mental illness trying to carve out a living.

For now though, I’m doing tremendously well with my schizophrenia, I’m on good meds and there are some days I forget I even have it. Because of that I feel like I want to get more out of life, I want a house in the mountains, I want financial stability and I want comfort. I want to choose my own doctor, I don’t want to have to rely on government assistance and the public health system and I want to live where I want to live, not in some section 8 classified apartment complex where on the best days it feels like I’m living in a nursing home.

I’m going to push until that happens and I’m going to keep fighting until I get what I want out of this life and that’s a lesson all of us could do well to learn.

It’s hard enough having to live with a mental illness without trying to make a place in this world.

The Struggle of Making a Living with Schizophrenia

Michael Hedrick

Michael Hedrick is a writer and photographer who has lived with schizophrenia since he was 20. His work has been featured in Salon, The Week, Scientific American and The New York Times. You can purchase his book 'Connections' here or Follow his blog on Living with Schizophrenia here.

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APA Reference
Hedrick, M. (2015). The Struggle of Making a Living with Schizophrenia. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 14 Feb 2015
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