KeepHealthCare.ORG – Organization supports those with mental illnesses | Life
To say Dottie Bailey has had a tough life is a gross understatement. Severely abused as a child, she grew up to develop Bipolar 1 Disorder. Things, unfortunately, did not improve after an official diagnosis as an adult.
“I have been hospitalized over 16 times in the 29 years since my initial diagnosis. Many times for medication adjustments due to my symptoms starting to spiral. I have attempted suicide and spent four days in CICU. My children were told to terminate life support and they refused, I started waking up several hours later,” she said. “I am a walking miracle having survived toxic poisoning due to one of the medications that I was on for Bipolar. The suicide attempt and I also broke my back in the ocean two years ago when I was caught in a riptide, I barely made it out. Even more so I’m a walking miracle because I live every day with a mental illness.”
Bailey then started out on the long road to recovery. Today, though she is still dealing with the illness, she is much better. Bailey was the first person in her family in four generations to graduate from high school, going on to obtain a bachelor’s of science degree. She also serves as an advocate for those with mental illness.
“I’m a Certified Peer Specialist, having been certified through the State of Georgia to work with others who have mental illnesses. That’s what I do at Gateway. I’m also a CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) Community Instructor in that I help train law enforcement in what it’s like to live with a mental illness when they are going through their CIT class,” she said.
While she helps provide resources, Bailey said the stigmas surrounding these disorders, adding another barrier in recovering.
“Mental illness is misunderstood in that people believe it’s something we did to ourselves. Many are born with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, others like myself become mentally ill due to our environment or circumstances that we go through. A mental illness is not something that you can catch, however with some illnesses it can be inherited. The stigma against mental illness is better than it was when I was first diagnosed but it is still prevalent in society,” she said.
Even so, Bailey and so many others still need support. It’s why she turned to National Alliance on Mental Illness (also known as NAMI). The group meets at 7 p.m. Thursdays at Brunswick hospital of the Southeast Georgia Health System’s Kemble Conference Center, 3011 Kemble Ave., in Brunswick.
The organization provides invaluable help to those with mental illnesses. During May, National Mental Health Awareness month, Bailey is trying to bring their services to the forefront.
“NAMI helped me out of a deep depression when I started going to their support group. It was inspiring to hear other people’s stories and to know I wasn’t alone in this fight for sanity. I finally went back to work after being disabled for 18 years. I work at Gateway Behavioral Health Services. I feel I grow more every day as I work with others who have mental illnesses like me,” she said.
She has also designed a mental health alert wristband designed to help law enforcement.
“It was something that many law enforcement officers ask for when I went to CIT classes. They wanted some way to identify us, so they could help us better and faster,” Bailey said. “They are used by the Brunswick Police Department and Glynn County Police Department and are quickly spreading throughout the State of Georgia. I’m excited to have been able to design these. It can help keep people from going to jail when they should be going to the hospital and in some cases, it may even save lives.”