Mental Health Hero Bonnie Neighbour
Bonnie Neighbour has a passion for Community Transformation, a job that works towards Systems Transformation, and a commitment to Personal Transformation. She volunteers an average of seven hours a week to various healthy community projects, including several peer-run programs. As Advocacy Coordinator for the Virginia Organization of Consumers Asserting Leadership (VOCAL), the Virginia state-wide mental health consumers’ network, she is involved in changing the mental health care delivery system for Virginia, and is privileged to support others who are trying to do the same thing. As a Certified Peer Specialist (though not working as one) and a WRAP facilitator she is honored to be allowed into peoples’ lives as they are involved in personal transformation. And by sharing peoples’ transformative journey, her own personal journey is transformed.
Bonnie also gets excited over her work as a facilitator for Mental Health America of Virginia with their Empowerment and Leadership classes for Virginia citizens, including veterans, with mental health concerns. She designs and teaches Advanced Level Facilitation classes and Warm Line volunteer classes. She is involved with several peer-run groups with connections to DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance); WRAP; The Icarus Project; McGuire Veterans Hospital; Friends 4 Recovery; as well as a regional peer connection/action group in central Virginia.
Bonnie was diagnosed with a severe mental illness in the 1995 after fifteen years of looking for an understanding of what was happening to her. Relieved by finally getting some answers, she became a perfect, compliant patient. She believed what her doctors told her – that she’d be progressively more ill for the rest of her life, and that compliance with treatment could slow that degenerative process. She became a “professional patient” and got great positive feedback from her treatment providers. However she was becoming more ill very quickly and was eventually homeless; living out of her car. Unable to work, Bonnie received Social Security Disability benefits for many years, with Meals on Wheels bringing her food, as she was unable to manage the daily chore of finding sustenance.
Her life turned around quickly and dramatically when introduced to the idea of mental health recovery for the first time in 2005, and she now generously shares her challenges and successes to assist others in their recovery journey. Bonnie has a passion for educating others that recovery is possible and helping to empower them to find their own recovery through hope and personal responsibility.
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