Jefferson Award nominee not afraid to talk mental illness - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Jefferson Award nominee not afraid to talk mental illness

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This month's Jefferson Awards honoree is a woman who believes change never happens without action.

She is the driving force behind action in the Midlands to make sure people who are living with mental health disorders are able to quickly and easily find the services they need to work toward healing.

Mandy Medlock is an executive, a wife, and a mother. She's also in recovery.

"I have a very personal story that I don't mind sharing at all because that's part of what we do at NAMI," said Medlock.

NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Medlock is the director of operations, but she first came to NAMI nearly 15 years ago looking for help. Her first husband was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.

"He became very ill when we were in our late 20's and we had two small children and I lost him to the disease," said Medlock. "He is still alive and kicking it and breathing and walking around, but it irrevocably changed his brain so that he was no longer the man that I married."

Medlock was desperate with grief, sadness, and denial.

"When my husband was ill and in the hospital, numerous times I told people he was out of town," said Medlock.

"It's very difficult, I guess, to get over the shame."

NAMI helped her get through some of the hardest times. Now Medlock's on mission to make sure others battling mental illness know they're not alone in the confusion.

"It's when you reach out and get help from others that you begin to recover," said Medlock.

Now she's reaching back to help others. Just recently, she got a call about a patient being released from a local hospital whose family was afraid to let her move home. Medlock and NAMI came up with a plan.

"She was so used to getting no, hearing no everywhere she went, that that bit of hope from hearing yes it has helped her recovery and her family's recovery and she ended up going home to her family," said Medlock.

Happily remarried now, Medlock's family is healing too. She says she's always been honest with her children, Chris and Ella.

"My daughter is 14 and she is very forthright about it," said Medlock. "I mean she just tells anybody and she doesn't believe in stigma and she wears her NAMI shirts. Whereas my son is older and he's more guarded about it and doesn't necessarily shout it from the mountain tops like we do."

Medlock says if she can save any other family some of the grief she's gone through, then she's done her job.

"It's something I will feel the the rest of my life and that I am empowered by because I want to show my children that recovery is possible," said Medlock.

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