KeepHealthCare.ORG – Ex-cons share mental health struggles behind bars
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – It’s the things in life we take for granted…seeing the sunlight, sulking in that summer breeze; but for two brave men who are about to share their stories… this idea is something that had to be re-introduced after years behind bars.
“I’m Jerry Lain.”
“My name is Jonathan Vantuil.”
Two men who had never met before this interview…
“In 2001, I robbed a bank,” says Vantuil.
“I committed a first-degree assault in Washington state,” says Lain.
Strangers… yet share similar stories of how they got here…
“Abandonment issues, drug issues, issues with my self-esteem, not knowing who I was as a person,” says Vantuil.
“Low self esteem, insecurities, drinking and drugs,” says Lain.
Mentally struggling; their minds incarcerated long before their bodies.
“I missed a lot. Family, kids, career. I should be looking at retirement but I’ll probably end up working until the day I die,” says Lain.
Jerry spent 35 years in prison. Jonathan spent 13. But after all the time they’ve had to themselves, and being surrounded by others who shared the same cells and mental entrapment, they knew it was within them to figure out a way to get out and never come back.
“It was something that I had to realize on my own and that if I do what they do, I’m going to end up back. If I don’t start to realize I have to learn how to build a life for myself, not for everyone else, then I’ll just end up back where I’m at. I didn’t want that for myself,” says Vantuil.
“I started changing who I hung out with, the way I thought, did AA, continued my education and changed my way of thinking,” says Lain.
Incarceration alone does not change a person. So how did they manage to articulate and demonstrate such magnanimous change?
“You need help and in reality, you can’t just expect someone to do this and that and follow by the rules when they don’t know how. If you don’t know how to live a normal life, how do you expect them to live a normal life?” says Vantuil.
“My victim was a police officer and I’ve written him several letters of apology although he said he will never accept my apology, I have offered and I do regret what I did,” says Lain.
Taking every step one day at a time, even if that means going to a halfway house to get back on your feet. Learning how to get a job, drive a car, and own your responsibilities as a purposeful contributor to society.
“I’m going back to school this fall to become a mental health therapist,” says Vantuil.
Out of all the challenges there are in the world–even inside a prison cell–mental health is often at the root of starting over.