Employability and Mental Health

By Kurt Stapleton

For my Sociology class: Race and Minority Groups, we were asked to pick a “private problem” and  briefly describe the following:

-What factors/evidence would you use to explain how and why it may reflect a structural problem in society?
-What are some potential solutions to this problem, both for the individual and the group to which they belong?
-Which theoretical perspective lens would you apply to solve this issue: functionalism, conflict theory, or symbolic interactionism? Why?

I chose to write about people with a mental health diagnosis and the stigma that they are not “employable” and other stigmas society has created. 

There was a belief that those who live with mental health challenges are not employable or capable of holding a job. This was the common belief for many people; that someone with a mental health disability could not hold meaningful employment or, at the very least, they would only be able to do minimal task employment such as janitorial, cleaning, or low-level skills jobs. Society has had this view for as long as mental health has been around. It falls mostly on the shoulders of employers, doctors and mental health care providers, however, those who hear it, believe it, and preach it are also at fault. Symbolic interactionism is the theory that comes to mind when thinking about this. For years, society placed this label on those with MHC (mental health challenges) that they were not capable of working and people believed this. Stigma plays a large role in this as people with MHC are thought to be lazy, not motivated or not ambitious. Another belief was that they could not handle stress and lacked coping skills to get through certain challenges. It is true that there are barriers for some, yet we have programs to help teach these skills and support them through the process of seeking employment.

Katherine Ponte writes (NAMI, 2019) people with MHC may be unemployed because:

“The debilitating impacts of mental illness. 

The fear of having to explain my spotty resume due to multiple hospitalizations and depressive episodes. 

The awareness that nothing I had done before I got sick seemed to count.
The prospect of having to start over.
The stigma that told me I could not work.” Society has been telling us for years that they are not able to do work. Thankfully, society is changing and accepting these changes. 

We are seeing how common it is to have a mental health challenge and how anyone can work and hold meaningful, good paying jobs no matter their mental health status with programs like supported employment, clubhouses and employers that are willing to work with individuals and their challenges. Companies are investing in workplace initiatives to have more diversity, equity and inclusion programs and are hiring people with mental health and physical disabilities and minorities in general. 

People are also becoming more confidant in their abilities and are self-employed as well. John’s Crazy Socks is a great example of this. Mark (father) was building an online business when his son, John who has down syndrome, said he wanted go into business with his dad. After realizing he did not have many options after he finished school, John thought of the idea of having a food truck but they both realized they couldn’t cook. So, John said “Let’s sell socks!”. And so, they created their business. 

We are learning, as a society, that people with mental health challenges can work meaningful jobs, they can do volunteer work and be very productive members of society. Simply because they have a disability does not mean they have to sit on the bench and not be a part of the team. In fact, they can be the quarterback, running back or whatever position they choose. 

Voting Q&A

By Amy and Erik

November 8th, 2022 is ELECTION DAY! Voting can be a confusing and sometimes intimidating experience. Clubhouse Member Erik and Chrysalis Staff Person Amy Y teamed up to answer some common voting questions! Both Amy and Erik have worked the polls on Election Days and hope to provide some guidance and support to the process! It’s most important that those who want to vote know how, have access to voting, and feel empowered to cast that ballot!

Q: Where do I register and how?  

A: You can register to vote at any library or at the City Clerk’s Office at 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard or online at: myvote.wi.gov. You can also register to vote at your polling location on the day of the election. Use the link to make sure you bring any required documents! Polling place workers are super friendly and really want to help you! Head into your polling location and they will walk through each step with you.

Q: Where do I vote?    

A: You can find your polling place by visiting myvote.wi.gov. Polling locations are often in community centers, local organizations like churches, and schools. Sometimes polling locations change so it’s always good to look up your location before you leave!

Q: Can someone help me vote?  

A: Yes! All polling locations are ADA accessible and have various forms of accessible voting technology. You may bring someone with you to assist you with voting, they just need to sign in that they are helping you. All polling locations must comply with your request to vote curbside as well if you’re not able to leave your vehicle. The Chief Inspector at each polling location is there to make sure you have full access to voting and that all poll workers understand your rights. If you feel there is an error, make sure to speak to the Chief Inspector!

Q: What if I forget my ID?  

A: If you’re registering to vote for the first time, you will need a photo ID and proof of residence (i.e. a utility bill, a bank statement, a government document, etc.). You will not be able to register without this document. If you are registered and forget your ID, you can still cast your ballot but it won’t be counted until you return with your ID. Poll workers will share all of your options to show your ID for this Provisional Ballot option. 

Q: What time do polls open?  

A: Polls open at 7:00 am and stay open until 8:00 pm. If you are in line to vote at 8pm, you are eligible to vote!

Q: Where do I vote if I’ve recently moved?

A: If you have moved in the last 28 days before election day, you will need to register and vote at your previous address. If you have lived in your dwelling for more than 28 days before election day, you will vote at your new location.

Q: How can I support the election?  

A: There are many ways to support local elections. You could be a poll watcher to make sure the process is smooth and fluid. Find opportunities for future elections here: https://myvote.wi.gov/en-us/Become-PollWorker.

Q: Are there resources to get to the polls?  

A: Yes, Union Cab and many others will provide free cab rides to the polls for those who need them. Find a complete list of transportation assistance here: https://disabilityvote.org/rides-to-polls/

Q:  Any tips if I’m anxious to vote?  

A: Just take a deep breath and realize that voting isn’t really that hard but new things can be scary and intimidating. If you have any questions about voting, the Chief Inspector at the polls is the best resource to get information and feedback about voting. Both Amy and Erik have seen how friendly and supporting the volunteer workers are! They are there to make sure that you have full access to voting. You can also talk to people that support you in your life. Like we said above, you can have someone help you vote and support you to get to and from the polls!

Q: Any other voting tips?  

A: People who make a plan to vote, vote more solidly because they remember how they decided to cast their ballot and when they plan on voting. It’s too easy for the day to get busy and all of sudden you’ve forgotten to vote! Making a plan on when you’re going to vote will help reduce the chances that you forget!

Chrysalis Matters

By Cody Vogel

Ladies and Gentlemen, there have been many words to describe this place………

Community, Teamwork, Growth, Support, Care, Friendship, Even better, A Family. Everyone that walks in the door has something that drives them, pushes them to heal, recover, and continue fighting through their own symptoms of stress. Each and everyone of us plays a part, and we all matter. We all grow off each other to the point where it strengthens us, and to be able to guide each other, and to know none of us are alone. You see in this place he, her, them, you, I, all of us are here to help through the moments of pain, stress, loss, or any other form of struggles. As well as in my moments of sadness this place provides a sense of joy, comfort, laughter, and meaning. With each event or fundraiser that this place does, brings all of us together, AS ONE, NOT DIVIDED. So what is this place I’m talking about??? The place known as Chrysalis. You see everyone that is apart of Chrysalis has been through HURT, but going through the hurt means there is always a way to HEAL. Everyone here is special and has bonds with there colleagues. To me, I know this place is my Community, but also is my Family, and that will NEVER change. Thank You.

A Human Resources Lens into Acknowledging Tragedy and Honoring One’s Whole Self

By Amy Holste, Chrysalis Director of HR and Workplace Wellness

The tragedy of gun violence earlier this week in Highland Park, IL and the news the suspect fled to Madison pausing to consider if they should enact more violence is beyond alarming. With each and every tragedy that happens, my stress and empathy button is pushed. I feel panic and anxiety spread through my body. It tightens in my jaw, throat, upper back, chest, and it gets tighter and tighter until it is harder and harder to breathe. It’s hard to focus on my work or anything else. I notice my thoughts speeding up, senses are heightened…so many different waves of emotions are flowing. 

“What if I were at the celebration with my kids? What would I have done if shooting started? What will I do if shooting starts? These suffering families. So much pain. How do we keep going every week and everyday when there is something new and terrible going on? Is this just going to keep happening again and again? What should I do? Do I talk about this? Do I block out the news? What do we say to consumers and staff? How will mental health be brought up? Are we starting to sound like a broken record? Do we need to have active shooter drills? I don’t ever want to normalize this. I’m so tired. What if I can’t find inspiration or hope to keep doing this? Am I slipping backwards in my mental health … Does anyone notice how much I am struggling? Am I going to be able to keep showing up in my role?

When the last thought crosses my mind I stop! It catches my attention because it is the first time over the last three years I’ve felt this. I lost a job before and for the longest time thought I’d never return to a career in Human Resources. When I was young, I was taught to work hard, encouraged by my parents to go to college and be more financially successful–and I was the first in my family to earn a college degree and pursue a professional career. I studied Psychology and Sociology but I didn’t know how to acknowledge or manage my own struggles with depression and anxiety. I’d regularly utilize coping skills passed down from generation to generation in the form of excessive drinking and binge eating. Often those were the only actions I knew to use to numb my discomfort and temporarily distract me from challenging realities of loss, isolation, trauma. We didn’t talk about deep things and we certainly didn’t share with others the challenges we were having in our minds.

Now twenty-five years into my journey with my own mental health and substance use I’m surrounded by the Chrysalis Community where being here reminds me every day the priceless benefits to advocating for places and spaces where we don’t need to keep ourselves and our mental and physical health challenges a secret.  We can openly share and support people actively experiencing challenges. We can talk about it or just hold space to be there for them. Spaces like our workplaces can actually help us stay committed to better health and wellness practices. 

There are days that are a true struggle. There are times I don’t want to admit I am struggling or want to talk about it. I know eventually to keep getting up each day to another tragic headline or stressor I’m going to need to acknowledge how I am feeling. It does help to choose how and when to process with others, when to tune out the news or social media, and when to re-align even more with my values and strengths to find purpose to focus on.

In this time of tragedy and the ones that will inevitably come after, here is a choice we have to choose what to focus on and what to find purpose in. For me I will continue to advocate and use my work to open more inclusive spaces where people can express the challenges influencing them.  Where people will be welcomed with acceptance and empathy and offered support and encouragement to pursue feeling better in any area they may be struggling with their wellness and use their own voice and choice to make these decisions and changes.

The way I see it from my HR lens, it is going to take more and more organizations and workplace leaders to embody purpose by transforming workspaces for more people to thrive in coexistence  and wholeness. It may take grit and courage to leave behind traditional policies rooted in dominance and compliance to welcome in a culture of caring for people’s physical, emotional, spiritual, social, financial, environmental, intellectual, and vocational needs—-to see, support, celebrate and value the whole person versus compartmentalizing them to only focus on the work related needs they have. 

Let’s agree to stop pretending or holding back parts of who we are that keep us all stuck in our fight, flight or freeze stress responses with each other. Normalize the struggles and let our human abilities to experience empathy and seek connection be our most utilized form of training, OSHA safety practice, or benefit in the workplace.

PRIDE Interview

By Ashley Staley

To celebrate PRIDE month, Chrysalis Pops manager Ashley Staley interviewed two members of the Chrysalis Community and asked them to share some of their lived experience being part of the LGBTQIA+ community.  Chrysalis Clubhouse Supervisor, Kathy Ziegert and Chrysalis Pops participant Alex share important details about the hardship and hope of this transformational community.  

Thank you KZ and Alex for sharing your story, we appreciate and support you!

1. When did you know? What was it like for you to come out, if you have come out?

KZ: I had some sense in high school when I wished my Speed (movie) poster had Sandra Bullock on it instead of Keanu Reeves. I didn’t actually know until age 19 during college when I ended up having a panic attack while walking to class.  Therapy helped and I was able to surround myself with supportive people. 

Alex: I kinda knew when I was 12/13. I grew up in a homophobic/transphobic household. It was daunting to come out, it was kind of intense. I fisrt came out as bisexual – now I’d identify as queer and asexual. It’s been a journey.

2. How does being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community impact your mental health? (thinking about societal factors, cultural factors, relationships, personal well-being, life satisfaction, stigma, sense of community, etc)

KZ: It certainly impacted my mental health as a young adult. I definitely chose paths that lead me to having co-workers and a community that supported my identity, from staying in Madison to choosing Social Work as a profession. Now that I’m in my 40s, having made these choices earlier, I don’t see this part of my identity impacting my mental health very much. 

Alex: It’s been both reassuring to be a part of a community and terrifying because there is so much hate against the LGBTQ community. I’m afraid to hold my girlfriend’s hand in public, and I’m constantly being misgendered. I’ve been lucky in the sense my parents didn’t disown or kick me out. But they still haven’t accepted who I am.

3. What do you wish people would know or understand more about being a part of the “alphabet mafia”?

KZ: I wish our larger society could embrace the gray and see fluidity with all sorts of ways to express oneself. I also wish we could focus on our commonalities vs our differences. 

Alex: It’s A. not a choice and B. it’s not dangerous – we’re not trying to convert people, we’re not coming after your kids, we’re just trying to love. We want the same rights as straight cis white men.

4. What brings you joy or makes you proud as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community?  

KZ: It brings me joy when my daughter can stand up in her 2nd grade classroom and proudly state she comes from a family with two moms. And it makes me proud that her classmates and school support her. 

Alex: We’ve come so far. I’m proud of our struggle- we shouldn’t have had to struggle, but we have and we’ve come so far. We need to keep working on our issues, but we’ve come a long way. There is gay equality in some states and the flag has been updated to represent more members of the community.

Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom from Slavery

By Michael Kile-Rasmussen

June 19,1865, was the original Juneteenth celebration. It originated from the date on which the last slaves found out they were free – following the Civil War, in Galveston Texas. June 19th is the Emancipation Day after 400 years of slavery in the southern states. Slavery was the institution which made the United States a rich county. In the northern states, slavery did not exist, but it was segregated freedom, similar to Jim Crow in the south.

Traditionally, Juneteenth is a summer cookout with food, music and fun celebrating the culture of the African American community.  We remember the heritage of our ancestors, the blood, sweat and tears that they put into cultivating and working a land that was not theirs and they did not own. I have so much gratitude and respect for their strength. I cannot image what it would have been like to be alive then.

I am proud of where I come from, that I have African heritage and that while my family members of 5 generations ago were in bondage, this day we are fee in society to show up and participate. To have a voice in the community and influence in today’s society is a major goal of mine.  To live a full, meaningful life without common threat of current harm each day is why I am proud to live in America.

Happy Juneteenth! Happy Freedom Day!

Maintaining a life in recovery: Celebrating 13 years

By Kurt Stapleton

When someone asks me “How did you do it?” I have 1 answer for them. “I was out of options.” I was facing 20 years in prison and losing everything I had. There was no other option. I had to stop using drugs.

Due to my poor choices made up that point on May 12th 2009, I was going to prison. My substance use disorder had led me to this. I was newly married, out of a job, no money saved, no future plans. I was merely existing and I was miserable.

When I was arrested and sitting in the back of the cop car I was doing the most reflecting I’ve ever done. My thoughts weren’t on “how am I going to get out of this?”, or “what are people going to say when they hear this?” My thoughts were “I’m going to lose my wife.” and “this is where my choices have led me, and I need to change.” That day was the last day I abused drugs. Period. I had no other options. I either stopped abusing and work on myself, or I lose everything I had, which was my wife. She was all I had left and I was no going to let that happen if I could.

So, I started my recovery journey in the back of that cop car. From there I started looking into different programs and meetings and took what I needed and left the rest for others. I chose to work on myself while incarcerated so that I could go home to my wife with a new attitude and outlook on life. By utilizing the self-help books that I had access to, attending AA meetings, and working with an AODA counselor in prison, I was able to see where things started going wrong and address the underlying issues. There were a lot of childhood traumas that went unchecked for many years and the drugs only acted as a Band-Aid over them. It wasn’t until I finally addressed each trauma, one by one, that I was able to finally heal, release the pain and guilt I held inside, and move forward with my inner child. Doing this internal work is what set me free from the pain I held inside and I noticed I was looking at life in a more positive view. I had hopes and dreams for the first time in a long time.

As the years go by, I reflect on those moments and what was going through my head. I was so fixated on getting the drug that I had no concept of consequences. It had no meaning to me at that point. Today I live a life that I had only dreamt of 13 years ago. I did not think this was possible and I’m proving myself worthy every day.

I chose to become a peer support specialist so I can help others who are in the moment that I had been in only 13 years ago. Trying to help them find hope and inspiration so they don’t go blind to the consequences or give up.

Today, I reflect on my past and I see how far I’ve come in my journey. I look back at all of the people who were there to help me along the way and share with me their advice, tips, stories of hope and inspiration.

Today, I am maintaining my life with recovery because of the knowledge everyone shared with me. And for that, I thank you and I will continue to pass that knowledge on to others.

Chrysalis Organizational Transformation & Tree

By Dani Rischall

With an agency name like “Chrysalis” it is no surprise that there is a large emphasis placed on supporting growth, transformation, and change throughout the organization. This value is mirrored in the work we do in the community, and the important role we have in walking alongside people in their vocational, mental health, and wellness journeys. Over the past 40 years Chrysalis has experienced significant transformation. 

In the last decade alone the organization has grown from five employees to 20, from supporting just over 75 people to supporting nearly 300 people! The practice of centering those that we serve, and valuing lived experience, have been critical to the growth of Chrysalis.

In our most recent Strategic Planning process (Summer of 2021) it was clear that we would need to strengthen our focus on organizational structure as we continue the expansion of our services, and our team. Being an organization that focuses on meaningful work, and the restorative benefits of a supportive work environment, it is incredibly important that Chrysalis as an organization is also taking steps to put these values into practice. The value of pay equity, strong benefits (health, PTO, retirement, etc.), training, support, office space, and workplace wellness have all been, and will continue to be, a large part of our organizational growth.

The “Organizational Tree” pictured above is a visual representation of some of this organization transformation. We continue to prioritize, center, and keep focus on the reason we are in the community doing this important work. It is first and foremost for the individuals we serve, in partnership with our employer network, and greater community. As you can see we don’t have one specific way of referring to the people we support at Chrysalis. We understand that people, staff, and programs have preferences, and we do our best to honor that. 

Direct Service Providers are the incredible people who are out there in the community doing the work. They are Employment Specialists, Vocational Peer Specialists, Chrysalis Clubhouse Staff, and in Chrysalis Pops. These are individuals who are walking alongside people as they explore their dreams, share challenges, and support people as they discover and build strengths, skills, and their voice. Chrysalis staff are talking with local employers about the value of inclusion, and about ways to support a diverse workforce. This team truly understands the value of purpose and belonging in mental health and substance use recovery. This team is there for one another in ways that help to mitigate the very real effects of burnout, and truly fosters collaboration, shared learning, and humility.  

Program Supervisors, Managers, and Leads hold the role of both supporting staff and those that we serve at Chrysalis. This role comes with unique opportunities, challenges, and many hats. As our team grows it is critical that Supervisors have a deep understanding of the work, the systems, and are able to show-up for staff when and where there is a need. This is the first time in the history of the organization that there has been a group of Supervisors functioning in this way. While some Supervisors are relatively new within their role it is extremely exciting to see how this structure will continue to support our team, and strengthen our services. 

Towards the bottom of the Organization Tree is what is known internally as ROOTS. This group of organizational leaders focus on support from a unique lens including financial sustainability, advocacy efforts, operations, outcomes, professional development, partnerships, and payroll, just to name a few. We have recently restructured this team with a couple position title changes and the addition of a Director of Programming.  

Our current Human Resources Director, Amy Holste, has transitioned to Director of HR and Workplace Wellness to emphasize this value and ensure time is regularly allotted to this practice. Alysha Clark, previous Assistant Director, has transitioned to Director of Advocacy and Operations. This shift recognizes the expanded operational needs as the agency continues to grow. Alysha is also taking the lead on many of our efforts that reduce the stigma associated with mental health and substance use. Alysha brings her own lived experience to the role, and as a Certified Peer Specialist, is supporting the larger behavioral health community to expand and intentionally support Certified Peer Specialists.

The newest addition to the ROOTS team is the Director of Programming, Amy Yonker. Amy has been working at Chrysalis for over seven years and played a huge role in the development and ongoing success of both the IPS and Chrysalis Pops programs. As Director of Programming Amy will utilize her strengths and skills to support all programs at Chrysalis with a focus on cross-agency collaborations and community partnerships. 

My role as Executive Director has shifted and changed as many positions do alongside the organizational growth we have seen at Chrysalis. I continue to hold our strategic priorities close, and balance program expansion and fiscal sustainability. I am beyond grateful to be able to do this work alongside so many incredible human beings and want to also acknowledge the support of the Chrysalis Board of Directors as critical members of this team. 

As we continue to grow within this Organizational Tree, and take steps to increase access to our services, we will continue to lead with our values. We will foster collective leadership, and amplify our message that having purpose, meaning, and community is essential, and key to recovery! 

We appreciate the important role all of our supporters play in the growth of Chrysalis. If you are interested in supporting our work I listed a few ways to do so below; 

If you have other ideas on ways to support Chrysalis or questions please feel free to reach out to me Dani, Executive Director, at rischall@workwithchrysalis.org

Thanks so much!

Clubhouse WORKS

By Alysha Clark

The chatter had been circling the Chrysalis Clubhouse for months. Cody Vogel- a two year colleague of the Clubhouse wanted to race in the 11th Annual Moving for Mental Health along with 120 other people in the community. His dream was to get the fastest time. To prepare, Cody raced Chrysalis Clubhouse members- including Chrysalis Clubhouse Supervisor Kathy Ziegert, “KZ.”

But this isn’t KZ’s first time running- she has completed several triathlons and even an Ironman. Her other passion is supporting people with significant mental health challenges in finding community through the Clubhouse model. So combining her two passions of running and supporting Cody, a Clubhouse colleague- just made sense. 

On Sunday, May 1st, Cody was on the start line and KZ on a bike ready to lead the race and ensure everyone’s safety. But KZ saw another opportunity- coach Cody along the way as he ran this 5K. KZ reminded Cody to pace himself when he started, he had a long way to go. 

Moving for Mental Health is a beautiful route along the lake in Madison, Wisconsin but it also can have some confusing turns and with the slight rain showers, it can be slippery. KZ knew this all too well with her own training and she was in Cody’s ear the whole race, “slow down, your legs are turning to jelly, there isn’t anyone behind you”, “careful on the bridge it could be slippery.” Cody stayed focused, determined to prove to himself that he could do this. 

As Cody came over the bridge he was cheered on by Chrysalis staff, community members and Clubhouse colleagues, passing the finish line in first place. Cody’s smile was so big we could barely see his eyes. 

“I was moved to tears watching Cody reach his goal with KZ by his side encouraging him every step of the way. I was witnessing the transformation that can happen when someone is supported within a Clubhouse! If everyone with a significant mental health challenge could have people supporting them like KZ did that day- we would understand what community care really means.” -Alysha Clark, Certified Peer Specialist and Director of Advocacy and Operations at Chrysalis.


By Cody Vogel

An event that happens only once a year, which is held by Chrysalis, located at Tenney Park. This event is a Fundraiser to fight against mental stigma and is to bring our community together and cheer on those who participate in either a 1 Mile or a 5k(3 Mile)walk/run. For me, last year of 2021, it was my first time participating in this event, and I finished 5th in the 5k. This year I have been preparing myself to go all the way and finish 1st. So the question is not can I do it, but will I do it on May 1st in 2022. I Would suggest as many people come to this fundraiser event, support our community, cheer people on, or even participate in the run/walk. Chrysalis is a program all about helping people through their recovery and they have conquered that goal and have helped so many people. I’m one of those people who have been helped by Chrysalis at every angle and I want to thank all those apart of Chrysalis. So on May 1st, at Tenney Park, at 10am, come by and support the Chrysalis Community, and you may witness me, Cody Vogel, go all the way and finish 1st in the 5k. 


Date: May 1st, 2022

Location: Tenney Park

Registration Time: 9:30am

Start Time for walk/run: 10am