July 27, 2021

Hope Johnson Wins the Battle Over Mental Illness

Angelia D. Bills, M.S.W. 
Photo By:Photo Attributed

What happens when you think you have everything you need - a dependable job, husband, kids, a family who loves you - and then everything is taken away from you?

What happens when you think you have everything you need – a dependable job, husband, kids, a family who loves you – and then everything is taken away from you?

What comes next is massive depression. That is what happened to Hope Johnson. 

Hope got married in 2005 and was working towards the American Dream. Hope had a nice simple life in 2010. She had a job with Target for 15 years and a family. She also managed to save enough money to buy a home. Hope was proud of her home.

Then began the downward spiral.

The spiral started over a period of time. It started with a job loss, then a foreclosed home triggered by the job loss, followed by a break-up in her family, and then a series of deaths of close family members.

Massive depression comes in and takes over. Hope felt like she could not function. Daily routine tasks seemed overwhelming. She eventually became homeless and lived on the street for five years. 

Hope said, “My life was in shambles.”

Headshot of determined African American female with black braids and piercing looking at camera

Just like her name, there was a part of her that believed life could get better. She had a habit of collecting resources about programs/services, and one day in 2015, she got a brochure about Places for People.

She made a call, got an appointment, and her life started to change slowly. That is when she learned that she had a mental illness called depression.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act.

Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and possibly a loss of interest in activities that you once enjoyed. It can lead to various emotional and physical problems and decrease your ability to function at work and home.

Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (inability to sit still, pacing, hand-wringing) or slowed movements or speech (these actions must be severe enough to be observable by others)
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

After being diagnosed, Hope began working with a multi-disciplinary team of mental health professionals specializing in helping people experiencing homelessness and chronic mental illness.

She got support to launch her plan to put her life back together, and she did just that. It has been a long road and nothing happened overnight. Today, Hope is healthy and stable, and she is enjoying life and making plans.

Hope says, “It’s okay to have a mental illness. It does not define me. I am not defined by my past.” 

Today Hope is no longer homeless and has health insurance. She has a new team and receives medication, counseling, and case management at Places for People that help her to stay on track when obstacles come her way.

Her advice to others is to, “Take the tools and use them. What I have learned is self-love; love for myself.”

Hope is now looking forward to getting her GED, and her ultimate goal is to become a public speaker and advocate for others who have mental illnesses. She also enjoys writing poems about her journey and experiences.

For more information, contact Places for People.

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