Womans struggles with mental illness help her help others

first_imgCindy Falter takes her spot at a large rectangular table with a half-dozen other people at the National Alliance on Mental Illness Southwest Washington.Two women hold dogs on their laps. A couple of men sip on water bottles, and everyone has a name sign in front of them. The weekly group Falter leads, along with John McDonald, is called Connection and is a mental health support group that focuses on connecting with each other, checking in with each other and sharing resources.They start by running through the group guidelines, and then move to the 12 principles of support, each person reading a principle before finally settling on the final principle. They read it together, aloud:“We’ll never give up hope.”Falter, a 63-year-old Vancouver resident, can connect with that mantra, as she’s not only coping with her mental illnesses, but thriving as a peer support counselor, and a Social Security benefit adviser with NAMI. Falter’s journey to her present life was fraught with setbacks, including about eight suicide attempts that stem from her struggles with bipolar disorder and depression, and the manic swings that have accompanied those diseases.In 1984, Falter was diagnosed with depression. She was in the midst of taking care of her mother, who had suffered a stroke. At the time the diagnosis made it look like she was just depressed because of the situation around her. In 1988 her mother died, after Falter had taken care of her for 12 years. That exacerbated Falter’s depression.last_img

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