For many people suffering from mental illness in the U.S., proper treatment can be difficult to find. But in a HuffPost Live discussion on challenges that the mentally ill face, Lisa Halpern shared her success story, explaining how her schizophrenia ultimately helped her find a job.
"I'm Director of Recovery Services at Vinfen, and part of my job is that I have lived experience with illness -- it's part of my job title," she told host Nancy Redd. "I head up the peer services at Vinfen. It's a non-profit mental health services provider. I head up 18 peer recovery coordinators, which are people with mental illness on our outreach team, who work full-time and who work as models of recovery."
Halpern's schizophrenia symptoms began while she was an undergrad at Duke University, but they quickly worsened when she began graduate school at Harvard.
"I started getting lost on the three-block walk to school. I started getting lost in subway stations. One day I looked down at the coins in my hand -- they all looked exactly the same. I was unable to wash my clothes in the laundry machine, I stopped bathing and washing my clothes, unable to write checks, wash dishes, finally lost the ability to read and write. My IQ was tested at 70, which is borderline mental retardation -- it was a very swift and quick decline for me. A medical leave from school became inevitable."
Joining Halpern and Redd in the conversation were mental health blogger Natasha Tracy, Dr. Deepu Gowda, assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University, and Dionne Monsanto, a life coach who works to raise awareness of mental illness in the black community.