YOTP Diversity Stories


When I think about how my diverse background impacted my recovery journey the first word that comes to mind is: invisible. While I am a woman, which places me in a minority group, I have so many more hidden diverse groups that I identify with that people do not see daily. Until I started to think about diversity, I did not realize how impactful this has been on my recovery. I am a former clinician on a recovery journey, I have an SMI diagnosis as well as a substance use disorder, and I have fibromyalgia. While I could focus on how my recovery journey has been negatively impacted by these additional hurdles, I try to remind myself how each gives me strength. With each unique challenge presented to me I have a different perspective on life and can build resiliency. I do not let a label define me as I could continue to add label after label to my identity and bury myself in labels. I try to give myself grace and work toward the life I want to live. Some days are harder than others. Some days I feel like my story does not make my recovery journey as meaningful as individuals who have a visibly diverse background. Then I try to remember how many other people are out there who feel the same way I do and that makes my story even more important to tell. I am worthy. We are all worthy of love, acceptance, and recovery.

Risa - Supporting the Adoptee and Foster Experiencers

What happens when a person has experienced being placed in foster care or being adopted? There isn’t one simple answer, but statistics show that the effects are far reaching and deep. Did you know that children in foster care:
  • are seven times more likely than non-foster youth to have Depression, and
  • five times more likely to have Anxiety.
  • In comparison to veterans, former foster youth are twice as likely to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Read that last one again!

And that adoptees:
  • Without resolution of the developmental trauma as a child, adopted individuals could have the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and complex PTSD as adults.

  • Adoptees are four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-adoptees.
  • Adoptees are over represented in the juvenile criminal system, prison system, psychiatric institutions, drug and alcohol rehabilitation settings.
Because of the emotional and mental health challenges that children “in the system” manifest - and into adulthood, it is easy to think we are innately flawed. But it’s important to know that abuse and neglect are rampant in the foster/adoptee community. So, where does the problem lie?

I can only speak from experience and what I have witnessed. I was adopted. I had an adopted, non-biological older sister. I also had a foster sister who lived with us for one year and a foster brother who lived with us for 8 years. Me, my sisters and brother, which is how I always feel about them, were “outsiders”. We followed an unwritten understanding to never talk about our pain, grief, or voice any questions about our natural families. We were treated very poorly by extended family and by neighbors as well as teachers. We all experienced what felt like living in a strange void. Everything was secret and had to be kept that way. To this day, at middle age, I am still not allowed to access my birth records. The powerlessness and infantilization continues.

It’s important to know that abuse and neglect are rampant in the foster/adoptee community. Although statistics are contradictory, I would venture to agree based on the many people I’ve known who were adopted or in foster care. I know that people raised with their birth families can experience abuse and trauma, too. I contend that being adopted/fostered magnifies these experiences significantly.

With our over-representation in myriad systems and services, what is missing? How can we heal?
I think that alternative modalities can better serve our population. These would include Emotional Freedom Technique, EMDR, NLP, Core Transformation and other less mainstream techniques.

I had been in and out of therapy much of my life. We were in family therapy, too. Never once did any therapist acknowledge the elephant in the living room! It wasn’t until I pursued alternative modalities that I have been able to dissolve layers of grief, trauma, and other deep and primal wounds.

I propose that these types of services be made available to the adopted/fostered community and the community at large. I also think that it’s important for people working in the mental health and judicial systems to have training to understand this level of trauma.

I once thought to myself, “Imagine if every human being was relinquished/fostered/adopted.” Food for thought.

https://afth.org/adoptee-suicide-awareness/#:~:text=Although%20suicidal%20thoughts%20can%20be https://drtracylcarlis.com/adopted-children-syndrome


The community could have programs for people with mental illnesses to obtain jobs. Also a more comprehensive bus system. It is not a joke that there are a lot of mental health consumers that a re not able to drive. Therefore, it would make sense to have a system of transportation for those that cannot get around and make it great too. I identify as a Christian. And I always feel like I have the things that I need because I believe that God is always providing for me. I feel like I have always been good at speaking and understanding people which has gotten me very far in life. I think what needs to change is our attitudes towards consequences. It’s my personal belief that regardless of what we have done in life, we will face the consequences of our actions at one point or another. However, if we are responsible with our actions and speak the truth about our wrongdoings, we will obtain help to fix our situation. That is my personal belief.


I am a 46 year old, African-American woman, and I am also an Attorney and a Mother. I have Schizoaffective disorder, which is a severe mental illness that affects a very small group of people. I have lived with this illness for approximately 22 years, and I have finally reached a point in my recovery where I am able to live a productive and fulfilling life.

Before I reached this point in my recovery, I struggled with stigma, isolation, and a lack of self awareness - all while dealing with the debilitating symptoms associated with my illness. As an African- American woman, I know better than anyone how discouraging and destructive it is to be labeled as someone who has a mental illness. Many people in my specific racial group, profession and community do not understand the nature of my illness, and they often assume that my mental disorder defines who I am and what I am.

Because I am a fighter who refuses to allow my illness to determine my identity and my destiny, I have been able to overcome many obstacles and beat the odds. My faith is the most important dimension of my wellness, and it is the foundation that supports all other aspects of my wellness. I have also been very fortunate to have a strong support system consisting of my family and my beloved peers with lived experiences.

Learning about my illness and acceptance of my diagnosis has given me a sense of control and has empowered me to never give up. There is so much that needs to be done to erase the stigma of mental illness, prevent discrimination, and improve treatment options for individuals with mental illness. I can continue to do my part by advocating for myself and my peers because I know for myself that recovery can be achieved and maintained. Recovery is hard, but possible through education, self determination, peer support, and hard work.

My recovery journey has been incredibly difficult at times, but I am determined to keep going. It is my continuing hope that I and my fellow peers will keep fighting to never allow anyone or anything to diminish our potential to make a meaningful difference in our communities and the world.

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