Monday, August 1, 2011

Meet Linea Johnson, Mental Health Research Advocate

Guest blogger Linea Johnson
Growing up I knew a lot about disabilities. Being the daughter of a mother who was a special education professor and a father who was a vocational rehabilitation counselor I grew up reading the DSM and diagnosing my friends and animals. In my world disabilities were “normal”. They were something that eventually everyone encounters and the differences between one person and another were no different than my being a brunette and my sister being a blonde.

At the age of ten I knew that some people had a difficult time living with their disability, but I had a hard time understanding why. I was so immersed in a world where disabilities were common that I didn’t grasp the complexities of the culture, lifestyle, and system that stigmatizes people who are different.

That was until I turned nineteen and my world changed forever. At the age of nineteen and a college sophomore, I found myself depressed and suicidal. After months of struggling I was eventually hospitalized, grappling with this big thing called a diagnosis. After years of ups and downs my struggle finally had a name: bipolar disorder.

To me this was a death sentence. Though I grew up understanding and empathizing with the concept of disability I was only beginning to understand what it truly meant for the first time. I was terrified of this big word and the stigma and complications it held. That was until I remembered the environment I had grown up in and my early interest in the science and community behind the labels.

After a few more years of struggle I began to do research and learn more about my illness. I learned the statistics and saw how common bipolar disorder was. Learning more about the science of the brain demystified the larger abstract concept of what it was to have a mental illness. Learning the number of people who struggled with mental illness I saw that I was not alone, and through the science I saw that my moods were in fact not my fault.

Today I speak nationally on bipolar disorder, mental illness and adolescents. I ground my words in the statistics and brain science, and speak as part of the community. Today I know that through the help of doctors, counselors and scientists I can live the life I want and live with the hope that new research can help people like me live stronger and more confident lives.

Special thanks to today's guest blogger, Linea Johnson. In addition to research advocacy and increasing awareness of mental health issues, Linea is the lead contributor for the blog BringChange2Mind. Learn more about her journey to becoming an advocate and her upcoming book at Linea and Cinda.

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