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 www.goodgirlchronicles.com.

Profile in Brave: Rudy Caseres, a passionate mental health advocate

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“I see mental health advocacy as a human rights issue,” said Rudy Caseres.

Rudy is most passionate about advocating against forced treatment. It says this in his bio on Facebook. Rudy is a social media entrepreneur hosting live chats on Facebook with inspiring advocates of mental health. He was a cast member in the 2017 This is My Brave Los Angeles performance where he shared his story. He was also selected as one of the Mighty’s mental health heroes of 2017. He hosts the Facebook live chats No Restraints with Rudy Caseres where he interviews people passionate about mental health. He also hosts Brave Chats as part of This is My Brave on fb live where he interviews past cast members. A poignant interviewer, Rudy is brave and strong and the future of mental health advocacy.

Rudy was a former a 35F Intel Analyst in the US Army and had this to say about changing the culture surrounding mental health in the military.

“Too many people don’t want to come out about their mental health because they are afraid they will be discharged, end up in a psych ward or be ostracized. Their military career will be over,” he said. “It’s gotton a little better recently but it needs to be easier for people to reach out to therapists and peer counselors.”

After the military, Rudy attended Santa Monica College to study theatre where he became involved in their Active Minds chapter. The chapter held a prize wheel in the quad and Rudy began to make presentations about mental health, learning this was a strength of his. Rudy, who has bipolar, was in the process of figuring out his illness, himself and his strengths.

“Active Minds helped me at that time because I was dropping out of classes left and right, seeing a therapist, feeling I will never make it through this,” said Rudy. “Active Minds got me through it.”

Rudy stepped away from college for awhile and began his career giving presentations to groups about mental health and using Facebook live to make others aware about what other mental health advocates were doing.

In 2017, he discovered the organization This is My Brave, which uses storytelling and other arts to break the stigma and discrimination out there surrounding mental health. He auditioned to be a cast member and starred in the 2017 Los Angeles show.

Rudy’s advocacy stems from his own experience of psych wards, restraints, and forced treatments. By doing this work, he feels he validates the pain and trauma of others. He practices self-care with long drives up the California coast, bike rides, hiking, and of course, mental health advocacy. Rudy loves to joke around, and humor sometimes can be the best medicine.

“I could do mental health advocacy every day,” he said. “I’m good at it and it gives me meaning.”

Rudy will be hosting a storytelling forum titled Heartbreak and Healing: Your Stories of Love, Loss, and Lunacy on Februaary 11 at 7PM at the Garden Free Church in San Pedro, CA. It is a free event and those on the west coast should feel free to attend.

You can find Rudy on social media at www.facebook.com/rudycaseres, twitter and instagram @rudycaseres, read his writings on themighty.com, or visit his web site to contact him at www.rudycaseres.com.

You can find out about This is My Brave shows and how to get involved by clicking here.