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Mental health: The road to recovery

Millions of Americans — including millions of Hoosiers — face mental health challenges.

News 8’s Amicia Ramsey takes a look at how these issues impact the Indianapolis community in a weeklong “INside Story” series.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) —  More Hoosiers are facing mental health challenges than you may think. More than 260,000 people in our state are living with a serious mental illness like 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 a woman about her mental illness journey and her hope message.

Dawn Davis is known for her big smile, but behind every smile, there’s a story.  As a teen, she says, she struggled with getting a grip on her mind and emotions.

“I didn’t understand at the time, but I knew something was wrong,” Davis said.

And by age 18, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder.

“I started self-harming. I had a bad relationship with food. I had a lot of depressive episodes,” Davis said.

While she has seen brighter days, others days are still dark.

“For me, it involves intense feelings, rapid and extreme mood swings. I can go from laughing and enjoying life one minute to crying and contemplating suicide all in the same day,” Davis explained.

And although every day presents a new challenge, Davis says she is on the road to recovery.

Each person facing mental health challenges has a different idea of what recovery means. For some, it might mean managing their mental illness while leading a meaningful life. For others, it might mean being symptom-free.

For Davis, part of her path to recovery includes helping others.

“I think talking about my illness is very important,” Davis said.

NAMI trained Davis on how to talk to others about living with mental illness and recovery, and, for the past 12 years, she’s been a speaker for the NAMI In Your Own Voice education 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 while erasing some of the stigma around mental illness.

“When I go around and talk to people, I make sure they understand that it hasn’t always been easy. It has been a struggle, but I have 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 lack of mental health crisis services across the U.S., and more officers are serving as first responders to people having mental health-related issues.

“I think I would need to have someone make a connection with me. Whether it be talking to me or saying, ‘Hey, I know something’s going on. I see you are having a problem,’ (while), keeping in mind the compassion aspect of it. This is a person you are dealing with,” Davis said.

Despite the challenges, Davis says she will keep spreading awareness to others about mental health and her recovery process.

“In the mental health system, there are a lot of turns and twists and slides, ups and downs. You never know which way you’re going, but if you have someone with you and you’re an advocate for yourself, the ride will be easier.”

Mental health resources