My Recovery Story

Dana Parker-Mathis, PhDc, MA, MHFA Instructor, DBSA Peer Certificationby Dana Parker-Mathis, PhDc, MA, MHFA Instructor, DBSA Peer Certification

For over twenty years I have struggled with symptoms of mental illness. When I was only twelve, my father passed away from a brain aneurysm in front of me. I was so devastated by the loss, I felt myself slipping into a place I didn't quite understand, but at my young age I didn't know how to share my feelings with someone so they could throw me a life-line. Life continued throughout high school.

Fortunately, I was admitted into the Intensive Educational Development Program at the University of Maryland and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Behavioral and Social Sciences in 1990. In 1994, I married and on December 15, 1995, I gave birth to my number one fan and best friend, my now fifteen year old son, Zachary. I endured postpartum depression for several months, at which time I felt extremely overwhelmed.

My symptoms intensified and I began having thoughts. I was created for a special purpose. I was convinced my home and car were bugged. I believed the government spies were trying to take my son away from me. I spent hours driving on expressways and interstates chasing trucks and buses, reading them for clues and signs about what I was to do next. Colors symbolized both people and things, so every time I glanced at something green, it was telling me to grow-up, purple represented my mother, and yellow, my sister. Every color and every sight I saw meant something to me. My symptoms included severe mood swings, hallucinations and paranoid delusions. It was both exhilarating and exhausting.

I returned to my home state of Michigan with the hope of benefiting from participation in a mental health research study called STEP, Services for the Treatment of Early Psychosis at Wayne State University. Participating in this research study offered me hope while I endured the symptoms of Schizophrenia. The staff of the (STEP) Program worked diligently to create a well-rounded, all-inclusive treatment program for persons experiencing psychotic symptoms. The STEP program offered a three piece program: psycho-education, social skills and medication management. This opportunity was the single most contributing factor to my recovery. I am a fervent believer mental health research was what led me to a stable and fulfilling life. Research was key to correct diagnosis and finally finding a treatment program that worked for me.

I have been in recovery since 2005 and am living a fulfilling life. In May 2007, I completed my Masters of Social Justice Program and as part of my required internship I developed and implemented an educational support model program through my non-profit organization, Dig My Roots Foundation. Working with Wayne State University Psychiatric Centers, Detroit Central City, and Lincoln Behavioral Services, I have assisted many of my peers in gaining entry into higher educational institutions, trade schools and GED Completion Programs throughout the metropolitan Detroit area.

I married a wonderfully understanding man in April 2007 and my son is performing exceptionally well academically and socially. I am currently employed full-time with Gateway Community Health Agency as a Prevention, Education & Outreach Specialist and I am also a Doctoral Candidate in Human Services with a specialization in Social Policy Analysis and Planning. Mental health research has had a positive impact on my life and I encourage every peer to seek out research opportunities and get involved.

To learn more about mental health research and research opportunities available, visit the University of Michigan Depression Center website at Stay tuned for more information in our upcoming DBSA eUpdates on the partnership between DBSA and the University of Michigan Depression Center, which is bringing both researchers and mental health consumers together as partners to advance research


page created: January 18, 2012
 page updated: January 18, 2012