Along with psychiatric disorders and illness oftentimes comes social anxiety and isolation making it increasingly difficult for afflicted persons to work, socialize, and/or cope with day to day life. For those at the stage in their recovery where they are capable of working, residual difficulties to intermingle with others often comes into play. The beauty of working for a company like Fresh Start whereby all employees are dealing with a mental health issue is the way company employees offer a peer supported environment that is not forced but rather comes naturally through shared experience and with compassion. Without the necessity to disclose about medical and life circumstance any more than each worker chooses, the non-judgmental atmosphere helps employees feel like they are a part of a family environment where they have room to share about themselves if they choose in contrast with many other more mainstream workplaces where the need to hide their personal struggles is much more commonplace.

Throughout the year, Fresh Start offers a variety of opportunities for employees to join together to eat, lounge, and interact. From summertime barbecues to biweekly pay day lunches, from monthly cooking classes to outings at the Mandarin, when it comes to Fresh Start, good food is rarely far away. Further to this, the company offers a bi-weekly social club, unique social gatherings like ghost hunting and metal detecting, and yearly fun-filled festivities at Fresh Start’s Annual General Meeting. While all staff are invited to participate at their own pace, offering occasion to socialize in a non-pressured setting is invaluable to many who otherwise might not socially interact with others at all.

The stresses of living with mental illness can be reduced when supports are in place. While not a part of Fresh Start’s business model, many employees have found guidance and assistance in finding and/or maintaining housing, aid with O.D.S.P. or Ontario Works matters, as well as help communicating with community workers and/or medical staff on their behalf.

Finding and retaining employment can be a difficult feat as many at Fresh Start know; as well, helping consumer/survivors out in the community at large to maintain their homes can be challenging. The administrative staff works collaboratively with community workers, family members, and medical practitioners to support both applicants and current employees so their needs can be met as effectively as possible.

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