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Nicholas Addison Thomas

Director of Content Marketing, National Council for Behavioral Health

Raising Your Voice for Recovery: One Woman’s Journey from Treatment to Training

October 2, 2019 | Addictions | Recovery | Comments
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As a long-time peer support trainer in Utah, Ginger knows how difficult navigating your own mental illness can be. At the age of 15, she regularly contemplated suicide. A few years later, after she was kicked out of college, she made several attempts to kill herself, leading to a stay at a state hospital.

Over the years, Ginger found herself in and out of psychiatric hospitals to combat her then-undiagnosed mental illness, she was given electric shock therapy and outdated antipsychotics that led to tardive dystonia, a movement disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contractions.

It wasn’t until 2007, when Ginger was admitted to another hospital, that she was officially diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. She didn’t know it at the time, but it was the start of a new chapter in her life. Soon after, Ginger found her life’s purpose: Helping others heal.

“At the time, there was a huge lack of funding for homeless youth and Utah had the highest rate of LGBTQ homeless youth,” said Ginger. “So, after leaving the hospital, I started a breakfast for those kids, feeding them six days a week at my church. I knew one day I would be working with youth.”

Hearing a woman share her own experiences with schizophrenia inspired Ginger to become a peer support trainer. For seven years, she helped more than 700 people across Utah embrace their most valuable asset – their voice. She taught them how to tell their recovery stories to help others.

Finding her own voice as a trainer, Ginger also began working with members of the Utah legislature to promote peer support and mental health policies.
“I wanted to make a mark, so I got involved in advocacy. I told my story to lawmakers in the state capitol building,” said Ginger. “When I left, I sobbed. I never thought I could do something like that.”

In 2018, Ginger received National Council’s Certified Peer Support Specialist of the Year award in recognition of her tireless efforts and achievements advocating for recovery. Today, she supports Utah’s statewide suicide prevention training program as a suicide prevention trainer and advocate.

Ginger also fills in as a Whole Health Action Management (WHAM) co-trainer, coaching in different states. WHAM is a peer-led program for people with chronic physical and behavioral health conditions that promotes self-management to create and sustain new health behavior.

Outside of work, Ginger belongs to Advocates Gone Rogue, a group of individuals with lived experience who, separate from any organization, work with state leaders on mental health issues. Their current focus is working with state leaders to ensure CIT International (Crisis Intervention Team) curriculum, guidelines and structure are mandatory for law enforcement in Utah.

Learn more about Ginger’s journey to recovery and how raising her voice has helped countless people find the support they need. To learn more about WHAM, contact us.