A story of recovery: Stephen Guild

Stephen Guild remembers one of his lowest moments about 10 years ago when he was a patient at the Whiting Forensic Institute in Middletown, where he was sent after assaulting his father in the late 1990s in an incident that was due in large part to mental illness.

Believing that he would never be released, Stephen sought comfort in music and craftsmanship, designing and building an electric guitar in the institution wood shop.

“I really came close to losing all hope that I could ever build a life for myself,” said Stephen. “I didn’t think I would ever be able to do what I’m doing now.”

Thanks to his commitment to overcoming his illness – and thanks to a dedicated team of caregivers at Rushford – Stephen is now living on his own in a transitional apartment in Meriden where he receives the support and treatment he needs. In the process, he has become a success story in overcoming the misconception that mentally ill people cannot live meaningful, independent lives.

Stephen Guild, left, with his handmade electric guitar, and Jessica Matyka, Rushford clinical supervisor.

“Stephen is remarkable in that he has persisted in realizing his dreams,” said Jessica Matyka, a Rushford coordinator who is Stephen’s supervisor with the Psychiatric Security Review Board, the state board which oversees patients found not guilty by reason of mental health issues. “He has embraced the course of treatment and recovery that we have offered him and as a result, he is truly thriving.”

Stephen credits the Rushford staff members assigned to his care for supporting his transition. But he also credits his love of music and electronics, which sustained him through the course of his time at Whiting until he was able to transition to another facility in 2010. In 2013, the supervisory board concluded that Stephen had progressed so much that he could return to society, and Rushford was assigned to oversee his transition.

  • “I really came close to losing all hope that I could ever build a life for myself. I didn’t think I would ever be able to do what I’m doing now.”

    - Stephen Guild

Stephen, who found refuge in the guitar and tinkering with electronics as a child, built his guitar with a distinctive layout for electronic wiring and construction of the neck and body. He played the instrument at a recent meeting of leaders at Rushford and the Behavioral Health Network, performing a song by Rihanna that left many in the room deeply moved by his story.

Stephen is now looking for a full-time work in the electronics field, and also has taken up golf as a way to continue his re-integration into everyday life.

Another crucial source of support, he said, has been his family members, who have supported his recovery and his treatment, including his parents and his brother. He said the entire family looks at the experiences of their past as a learning opportunity to understand how mental illness can ultimately be overcome.

“I’ve been really fortunate in that I have a family that has not chosen to let these things destroy us,” he said. “Instead we are strong because we are moving forward together.”