Millions of Americans — including millions of Hoosiers — face mental health challenges.
News 8’s Amicia Ramsey takes a look at how these issues affect the Indianapolis community in a week-long “Inside Story” series.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – More Hoosiers are facing mental health challenges than you might think. More than 260,000 people in our state are living with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder or bipolar disorder, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
They could be your co-workers, neighbors or even family members. News 8 spoke with one woman about her mental illness journey and her message of hope.
Dawn Davis is known for her big smile, but behind every smile is a story. As a teenager, she says, she struggled to get a grip on her mind and emotions.
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but I knew something was wrong,” Davis said.
And at the age of 18, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder AND borderline personality disorder.
“I started to self-harm. I had a bad relationship with food. “I had a lot of depressive episodes,” Davis said.
While she has seen brighter days, other days are still dark.
“For me, it involves strong feelings, rapid and extreme mood swings. I can go from laughing and enjoying life one minute to crying and thinking about suicide all in the same day,” Davis explained.
And though each day presents a new challenge, Davis says she’s on the road to recovery.
Each person facing mental health challenges has a different idea of what recovery means. For some, this may mean managing their mental illness while leading a meaningful life. For others, it may mean being symptom-free.
For Davis, part of her road to recovery involves helping others.
“I think talking about my illness is very important,” Davis said.
NAMI trained Davis how to talk to others about living with mental illness and recovery, and for the past 12 years, she has been a speaker for NAMI In Your Voice educational program.
In Your Own Voice allows people like Davis to share their stories in a 60-90 minute session aimed at changing attitudes and stereotypes about people with mental health issues, erasing some of the stigma surrounding mental illness.
“When I go around and talk to people, I make sure they understand that it hasn’t always been easy. It’s been a struggle, but I’ve gotten here regardless.”
Davis is also an advocate for NAMI’s Crisis Intervention training program and speaks to law enforcement about living with a mental illness and how to “improve outcomes during encounters.”
“They see it from their perspective, about our behavior. But when we talk about our behavior from our perspective, it gives a different insight into it,” Davis said.
According to NAMI, there is a shortage of mental health crisis services across the U.S. and more officers are serving as first responders to people who have mental health-related issues.
“I think I need someone to bond with me. Whether it’s talking to me or saying, ‘Hey, I know something’s up. I see you have a problem,’ (while), keeping in mind the aspect of his compassion. That’s a person you’re dealing with,” Davis said.
Despite the challenges, Davis says she will continue to spread awareness to others about mental health and her recovery process.
“In the mental health system, there are a lot of twists and turns and slips, ups and downs. You never know which road you’re going down, but if you have someone with you and you’re an advocate for yourself, the journey will be easier.”
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