Profile in Brave: From TV Reporter to Mental Health Advocate, Speaker and Entrepreneur, Lauren Hope Shares Her Wisdom

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When Lauren Hope, entrepreneur and mental health advocate, practices self-care, she plays a Norah Jones CD and visualizes herself in a sunflower field.

Hope, 35, of Suffolk, Virginia, shares her lived experience with major depressive disorder and anxiety as a speaker, peer specialist, and on her blog Good Girl Chronicles. I found her through Instagram and the organization This is My Brave. The day we chatted I could hear Boo, her rescue dog, whom she adopted from the local Humane Society in the background.

“Boo and I rescued each other. He’s my emotional support dog. It’s nice having something to take care of that gets me moving and redirects my thoughts,” said Hope.

Hope’s troubles began in 2014 while a t.v. reporter for the #1 station in Hampton Roads. She was diagnosed with major depression and anxiety but believed it was only a character defect, that she could cure herself by pushing herself harder.

This came to an end after she attempted to take her own life that May. Her life slowly spiraled into a psych hospital stay, leaving her television job and eventually into homelessness for a year. She also gained 100 pounds.

In late 2016, she tried a new medication, which worked, and a new therapist. She reconnected with her Christian faith, and in 2017 began telling her story through blogging about her suicide attempt and mental illness. This led to people asking her to speak at mental health events. She’s been a board member for two years of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Virginia chapter.

She credits her advocacy as well as her survival during her homeless period to reaching out for help. She was surprised how when you reach out people freely give. Some donated to her GoFundMe page; while others let her take showers in their homes.

Telling her own story is a new way of life. “As a t.v. reporter, you tell other people’s stories not your own.”

One day at a suicide prevention walk, someone suggested she turn her story and blog into a business. “Storytelling saved my life and changed its trajectory,” she said.

She became a peer specialist, and continued to speak, blog, vlog and create content for social. She also does mental health consulting. “I can go into any agency and through talking about my lived experience help people be better allies and create a stigma free environment.”

She’s spoken to the Hampton Police and Fire conference and was surprised how little people knew about mental health stigma. But her goal is to one day speak to news organizations about setting mental health boundaries and not working until burnout, a cause close to her heart.

“I don’t think people understand the trauma news people see everyday,” “It’s a hard business to be in. It triggered my illness.”

Hope became active with the storytelling nonprofit This is My Brave. She shared her story in the Fall 2018 Arlington, Virginia show, and then is produced the Hampton Roads show. She started a small-scale storytelling show Sparks of Hope storytelling to give more people a chance to tell their stories.

“It’s the spark that changes someone’s life,” she said.

Through it all, Hope learned a lot about life. “I learned that I am so much stronger and that their are still good people in the world.”

“It’s not an easy thing being transparent and it’s especially hard around mental health.”

People who inspire her are Jennifer Marshall, executive director of This is My Brave, who has given people a voice and whose lived experience gives people hope and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, a wrestler, whose confidence she admires. It’s on her bucket list to meet him someday.

Her other self-care activities include seeing her therapist once a week, avid journaling, running, and right now using the Peloton App. She also reaches out to friends and has coffee dates on the phone.

You can find Lauren Hope at Instagram @goodgirlchroniclesllc or on her web site and blog

The Media, the Madness, and Me

Videocam shows police saving a man about to jump in the river. This bit of news flashes across my phone and it got me thinking. The mass media and Hollywood sensationalize mental illness. It happens most when they cover mass shootings to the high profile suicides and homicides. Mental illness should not be viewed for someone’s entertainment unless there is some way it engages a lesson in trying to lesson suicides or educate about symptoms. Even so, every mental illness presents itself differently in different people.

No one realized that I struggled with mental illness when I worked full-time at a newspaper on the Connecticut shoreline fifteen years ago. Not my editors nor my coworkers nor my colleagues nor my sources. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder in college, when my symptoms resurfaced, there was no one to recognize what they were, least of all me. Back then, I didn’t know myself as well or how my illness manifested. Everyone loved the stories I wrote for the paper but no one could explain my behavior. One day, thinking that they were going to fire me, I walked in and quit. My resignation did not end my battle with mental illness. The right medications, therapy and some nuturing professors in graduate school saved me among other things.

Virginia Tech happened years later while I was in graduate school. I wrote an editorial for a Chicago paper condemning the shooter but recognizing that he needed help, and praising groups like Active Minds for raising awareness about mental illness among students so these types of things don’t happen again.

Then, came Sandy Hook. I watched how the media covered the carnage in that elementary school. I watched as they condemned the shooter but never really explained the mental illness behind such an act. There were explanations needed. Things left unsaid lead to misconceptions, and ultimately prejudice. I was left aghast at the relatively little coverage paid to the mental health issues of first responders on that day.

I recently watched the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why about a girl’s suicide and how it affects a community. As much as the creators were trying to help, they actually sensationalized teen suicide by making it into a game. Brian Yorkey, of the Broadway play Next to Normal, was one of the writers. I find this unbelievable because the play, which I saw at Theaterworks, was an excellent example of skilled acting portraying mental illness. My coworker at the shoreline newspaper covered a suicide of a young woman in high school while I worked there. Certainly, this Netflix series was an affront to the pain this young woman’s family and friends went through as well as all the other teen suicides that have happened. In most cases, suicide is caused by depression or other mental illnesses.

Depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, anxiety and other illnesses are no game. They are real diseases fought by real people. Although, stable and on meds, I fight the repercussions of my actions during my illness every day as well as discrimination and prejudice. We are not some lone jumper or the “craziness” of WWE. We are people struggling first with our daily lives and then, with our thoughts, minds and moods. You can’t over-simplify our conditions.

I’m not saying everyone should come out about their struggles on 60 Minutes. But more stories must be done describing accurately these conditions and the treatments for them. It is hard to find these sources because so many voices go unheard due to fear and discrimination. There needs to be a normalization in our society of what we feel. We need to come to a place of compassion for those who struggle and give them our respect, decency and dignity.