Book shop only hires people suffering from psychiatric disorders

“It can help break the stigma of mental illness. Once they interact with someone who’s working in the bookstore and not feel afraid.”
July 7, 2018 4:43 pm Last Updated: July 7, 2018 4:43 pm

It can be difficult for people with psychiatric disorders to find a job—and as a result, it can leave them feeling isolated and like they don’t have a place in society, furthering the stigma towards people with mental disorders.

But one bookshop in New York is looking to change all that—and prove that you can’t always judge a book by its cover.

Turn the Page Again, a bookstore in the Bayside neighborhood of Queens looks like any other shop on its street—it’s the people inside that really make it special.

All the employees are people with psychiatric disabilities.

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That was the mission when the shop first opened its doors eight years ago. The name has a double meaning—giving a second chance to people from all walks of life who might not have many work opportunities like this.

For many of the adult employees, this is their first job.

“They may have a diagnosis of schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder,” founder Larry Grubler told PIX11.

The shop is run by Transitional Services of New York. It’s open seven days a week and sells books at a discounted rate—nothing is more than $5—since all the books are donated from the community.

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The shop has made a huge difference in the lives of its workers.

Assistant manager Nina Cassisus said she doesn’t know where she would be without the store, which has helped her get back on her feet after some dark times. She suffers from a chronic form of depression called dysthymic disorder.

“I’ve been through a lot of hospitalizations, and a lot of medication regimes, and I used to hurt myself and it was a lot,” Cassius said.

But working at the store has occupied her mind and given her an increased sense of self-worth. She’s even taken a second job training to be a florist and has started painting.

“I like coming to work, I like having some money in my pocket,” she said. “I like being kind of valuable … having a bit of worth.”

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But it’s not just about changing the employees’ attitudes—it’s about changing the customers’, too.

Grubler hopes the shop will change public views on psychiatric disorders.

“It can help break the stigma of mental illness,” Grubler told PIX11. “Once they interact with someone who’s working in the bookstore and not feel afraid.”

“It’s a really hard world,” Cassius said. “We all need to be friendlier to each other.”

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Hopefully, that stigma does break, and more companies become willing to give opportunities to people struggling with their mental health.

“I hope that I continue to be in a place where I have all this warmth and love around me,” Cassius said.