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Known for my bright and bubbly personality, it came by a complete surprise to family and friends that I attempted suicide three years ago. After texting a friend about the desire to no longer be alive, she immediately informed the police and when they arrived to my home, I was taken into the hospital. After being elevated by the psychiatrist, I was told that I could not go home because I was a threat to myself. I stayed in the hospital for a few days and transitioned to the partial hospitalization program for one month.

Honestly, after being discharged from inpatient and partial hospitalization program, I felt lost and scared. I knew that I would be consistent in my treatment even though I was very fragile and unsure how my life would pan out. I felt alone, like an outcast and could not relate to anyone in my support system. There was no one in my circle that survived a suicide attempt or had the experience of being in the psychiatric unit. I was out of work for almost two years. I tried to work but my mental illness got the best of me.  

As a result, I was behind on my bills, my credit score dropped tremendously and I had to move out of my apartment. I hopped around during this time and stayed with family, applied for jobs and felt hopeless. I started to believe that I could not work, applied for disability and thought that despite having two degrees from prestigious colleges, I would not be able to live a normal life. I decided to become involved with my local National Alliance On Mental Illness (NAMI) chapter and participated in Peer-To-Peer Program, a class facilitated by people who live with a mental illness. The facilitators helped me develop a recovery plan and I connected with others that I could relate to. I said to myself, “Finally, people who get me.” A judgement free zone where I saw people with mental illness who worked full-time and lived productive lives. It gave me hope.

The more I became involved with NAMI, I discovered that I could use my communications degrees to advocate for mental illness and educate my community. I decided to be what I needed, a peer and pursue a peer recovery specialist/recovery coach certification through Maryland Addiction and Behavioral-health Professionals Certification Board. Research shows that peer support helps peer recovery specialists find purpose, advocate for self and others, increases empathy, encourages recovery and acceptance. In addition, it builds community, reduce hospital stay and stigma, and promote self-efficiency, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

As a peer career advancement specialist providing support for the Enhanced Employment Supports Pilot, a research program with peer counseling and benefits planning,  I am excited to help individuals with disabilities achieve their goals and make an impact.