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Former TV news reporter shares story at General Assembly: ‘It makes it real’

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Mental illness led her on a downward trek, but it didn’t keep her down. These days former TV news reporter Lauren Hope is making sure she has a seat at the table when it comes to advocating for others with mental health issues. She started this week at the General Assembly, eager to share her story with lawmakers.

“I just want to be a voice for people that are struggling” Hope said.

The former journalist knows just what it means to be in that place. After battling years of depression, Hope quit her dream job and attempted suicide.

She survived, but soon found herself homeless. A renewed faith in God, a helping hand from some loving strangers, proper counseling and medication all put her on the road to recovery.

Now she is employed as a peer recovery specialist in the Hampton Roads area, helping others in crisis.

“Another beautiful thing is because people have been able to see me get up, it makes them feel like they can get up too. That’s something I never anticipated from my story,” Hope explained.

She never shies away from sharing her story, either. The hope is that she can help break the stigma of mental illness. It is why she made the trip to Mental Health Advocacy Day at the General Assembly.

“We’ll get to meet with ten legislators. They need to hear from people like us who have lived mental health experiences, because it makes it real,” Hope added.

She is teaming up with others from the National Alliance on Mental Illness to push for increased funding for more community service boards, more permanent supportive housing for people with serious mental illness, and the expansion of Medicaid.

“I have gap insurance, but if I didn’t, I couldn’t see a therapist or a psychiatrist or be on med management. I know hundreds of people that are not getting treatment because they’re not insured. We have to do something for these people,” Hope explained.

Mental Health Advocacy Day was just the start for Hope. She plans to return to Richmond in the coming weeks to take part in a retreat centered around mental illness.

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