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Antoinette Jalbert: Resilient Resource

Antoinette Jalbert

Antoinette Jalbert

Antoinette Jalbert has held a myriad of jobs in the behavioral health field during a productive career spanning nearly two decades; her personal experience with mental illness spans more than fifty years.

A warm and endearing woman, Antoinette agreed to participate in a telephone interview in July 2010. “I’m a people-lover, I guess” she said; a quality that seemed intriguing in relation to her lifelong struggle with mental illness. In 1960, Ms. Jalbert was diagnosed with schizophrenia. “Back then, [mental illness] diagnoses were not much of a topic—in my circles, anyway.” She politely went on to explain that it was not until twenty-five years later, in 1985 when she was 45, that she had even a rough idea as to what her diagnosis meant.

Throughout her approximately five decades of treatment, Antoinette had experienced numerous hospitalizations, the last in 1995. Despite these obvious obstacles, she managed to remain focused and hopeful, and decided to enroll at her local community college in 1990. At the age of 54, she graduated from Naugatuck Valley Community College with a degree in Human Services, keen to help those also suffering mental illness.

Ms. Jalbert’s internship during her last year of college included a placement as a “peer companion” at her local Mental Health Authority. After graduation, she worked as a "Special" for Connecticut Outreach West, bringing clients into the community, “getting them out of their apartments so they weren’t so isolated.” This would prove to be just one of many positive applications for her accessible and down-to-earth personality. In 1996 she was invited to join the Board of Directors of the Waterbury chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), eventually to work for the organization at the state level, teaching and helping to manage the various programs it offered. “I was very much welcomed, and loved dearly by those family members in Waterbury,” she recounted fondly.

Unfortunately, in 2007, Antoinette suffered a fall and was forced to retire. Shortly afterward, she was invited to serve on the Connecticut Workforce Collaborative, and has done so ever since. “I thought ‘Wow, that looks quite interesting!’… ‘Transforming the mental health system’; that was the goal.” Recently, she has given particular attention to reviewing requests for various grants funded through the Collaborative. When asked if she had a message for the rest of the Collaborative members, she offered, “Keep plugging.” “It’s a big job,” she chuckled.

For the past three years, Antoinette has been working on her memoir, experiencing only occasional writer’s block. She has remained in contact with her children and siblings, who are very proud of her progress and recovery.






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