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Hello, my name is Jeremy Espinal. I’m 30 years old and I have a mental illness. When I was 15 years old I had a breakdown and was hospitalized and later evaluated. The doctor diagnosed me with Bi-Polar Schizophrenia and severe depression. The doctors put me on an anti-depressant and a pill for my chemical imbalance. Over the years I tried different medications. Due to my mental illness, I had trouble in high school, which prevented me from graduating. I tried various outpatient agencies but I was still lost in life. In 2006 I was hospitalized at a facility for 6 months in Rochester New York. It was called R. P. C. which stands for Rochester Psych Center. Since then I’ve been on the same medication and have not been in any type of mental hospital.

Finally, in 2011 my family and I moved to Greenville, South Carolina. We came here for a better life. I continued to stay on my medication but I didn’t have anything to keep me occupied from day to day. I was referred to Gateway House on July 2014 by my doctor.

People use stigma when it comes to people with mental illness. They say people with mental illness like me cannot have a job. They say we are handicapped which is not true. That’s when Gateway house changed my life. I started the work-ordered day and began to improve my life. For once I was happy. 3 months later I was introduced to transitional employment through Gateway house.

My 1st job was in October 2014 at Furman University in their dining hall. It was a great experience and I felt so good about myself. I served food and helped in their deli. It really got me in the working mindset. Prior to Furman I never had a steady job because of mental illness. This TEP really gave me confidence. I felt like I was important and had meaning for once in my life. It was a 9-month job and I completed it. The following August, I started a new TEP job through Gateway at Bob Jones University. It was 1-hour longer then Furman but I loved it. I got to work in the dish room with my friends from Gateway. Bob Jones taught me to have stamina. Its hard work but we worked as a team. The following summer I worked my third TEP job through Gateway at North Greenville University. I completed that job after 2 months and I liked working there. In July 2017 I began working my own independent job in the community. I work at Ingles Super Market in Cherrydale. If I wasn’t for my previous jobs through TEP at Furman, Bob Jones and North Greenville, I don’t think I would be able to work independently. Gateway gave me an opportunity to work and ultimately overcome insecurity and stigma in regards to working. And I like getting paid!!

Thanks to Gateway I now can work on my own. Gateway helps encourage me and provides support through having employment/education meetings and dinner once a week. I’ve been at my job at Ingles for a year now and I love it. Plus I have my own apartment and I have been mentally stable for over 10 years! THANK YOU GATEWAY!!