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Exploring Mental Health

Dana

Dana

Ever since Dana can remember, she wanted to do two things: help people and create art. She grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and graduated from Mount St. Joseph University. It was there that her passion for art blossomed. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, a minor in Psychology, and a concentration in Art Therapy.

Dana considered an art therapy career but encountered a lot of personal struggles along the way. After many painful years, at the age of 23, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

In 2015, after three stays in mental health facilities in less than a year, a doctor suggested Dana should be in a long-term residential facility. Dana said, “I took a deep breath, summoned every ounce of courage and vulnerability I had and took the plunge. I signed myself up for three months at Hopewell. Those three months turned into six months, which turned into me regaining control of my life in a way I never thought possible.”

Dana was attracted to Hopewell because she could stay longer than 30 days and she fell in love with “the big farm in the middle of nowhere.” She said, “I had nothing to lose, so I went. Best decision I ever made. When your life is encompassed by mental illness, you feel hopeless. It utterly changed my life.”

Hopewell’s art studio kept her grounded and allowed her to explore more of her creative side. Painting made her happy, pulling string beans with the garden crew did not. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills taught her how to be gentle with herself. When it came time for Dana to leave, she was sad. Hopewell was safe. She said, “I realized it isn’t possible to be free of mental illness. I just had to learn to live with it.”

After returning to Cincinnati, Dana was introduced to Madi’s House, a community center offering support and activities for young adults battling addiction and mental health issues. After volunteering to decorate an unoccupied retail space that was gifted to this new nonprofit, she quickly fell in love with the organization and is now their Program Director.

Dana also shares her time with Joseph House, residential housing for veterans who are suffering from mental illness and addiction, and with Women of Alabaster Ministries, a nonprofit that meets the needs of those caught in human trafficking. She brings her love of art to these organizations, teaching a step-by-step program, emphasizing that art, and life, are not about immediate gratification. Dana said, “Everyone can make art. Your art does not have to be in the art museum. Your art is yours. You do not have to do it for anyone but you. If you do not have the words to explain your feelings, art is the perfect way to express anything.”

Dana is grateful to her family and friends who have helped her on her journey. She said, “No one ever explained to me that asking for help was going to be one of the greatest challenges of my mental illness. However, by having that continuous courage and support from everyone who loved me, asking for help has gotten easier. I learned the most valuable lesson: Asking for help doesn’t make you weak. It helps sculpt you into a survivor.

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