2012-2013 Voice Award Fellows
"SAMHSA’s Voice Awards Fellowship Program is a pilot project designed to give consumer/peer leaders in the behavioral health community the skills they need to amplify their voices to promote important behavioral health messages through story telling. By sharing stories about resilience and recovery from a unique personal perspective, together, the Voice Awards Fellows will shape public perceptions of behavioral health and promote social inclusion in the workplace, in schools, and in communities nationwide."
I tell my story one to one more then I do when speaking to an audience of people. I love both, they both take practice and knowledge of who, when and how to shape your story, but the message is the same, that of a dual diagnosed HIV+ and bipolar man in recovery from substance abuse.
Last evening I noticed a test book behind the counter of one of the shops I frequent, I asked the clerk what are you studying and she replied that I had just graduated Rutgers with a BA in Social Services and started her masters as you need a masters in this field to land a job. She went on about how expensive it is, what jobs she's had to date, interning, etc. In this case, she started the conversation and I jumped in and shared my story and the journey it has taken me on, the latest lay over, DBSA. She asked where's that.
I said not where but what, and it was a certification training to become a Peer to Peer Specialist. I recently received letter that I had passed and my certificate will be arriving soon. I then spoke about the Fellowship above and how I was selected for sharing my story about my dual diagnoses HIV and Bipolar and my troubles with addiction to crystal meth.
We spoke for a good twenty minutes and she shared that it was a pleasure to meet me, she jotted down my web page www.bipolarbear.us and said she would check out the site. In this case my story was well received and my goal of educating to diminish the compound stigma was accomplished.
I've told this story many times, one was years ago, it was to my Pastor. I was wearing my I'm Positive T-Shirt and he asked me what I was positive about, I said life Father. He said life is good, I said yes.
I later that day went back and explained I was HIV positive and he said is there anything I can do, I replied prayer, he said prayer you got. In that sharing of that story I educated my Pastor about HIV and later that year about my being bipolar.
Story telling to large groups is an awesome experience, one place this year was at the The Rainbow Heights Club. "Rainbow Heights Club, located in Brooklyn, New York, is an advocacy program for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender consumers requiring mental health services. We provide socialization, support, peer advocacy, and a safe place to take the next step on your road to emotional recovery and wellness."
After my one hour talk, this is what some in the audience wrote me on my feedback forms, how do you improve your story telling, ask for feed back:
"Beautiful wonderful strong man, he covered all pertinent information our membership needs to know."
"I leaned so much and thanks," "everything was great, more on safe sex," "thank you for coming today and teaching us how to live with both HIV and mental health."
"Steve has the personal touch."