Ashley Smith was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2007 after stealing a military truck and leading the police on a high speed chase -- a joy ride that landed her in jail.
"I heard voices. I saw images of people following me that scared me. I thought my life was in danger," Smith, 24, tells CNN.
After receiving treatment for her illness and learning to cope through medication and a strong support system, Smith decided to draw awareness to stereotypes by beginning her own nonprofit, "Embracing My Mind."
The organization, based in Atlanta, Ga., helps low-income and homeless people to seek help for their mental illnesses and works to begin community dialogues about mental health.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports more than 2.4 million Americas over 18 years of age have been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
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