Jason Hines, now 33, grew up the youngest of six in a religious and supportive family in Winston-Salem, NC. When Jason was just 11, his dad died, and it was a difficult adjustment. Nonetheless, he loved music, wrestled and played football in high school, and looked forward to an adulthood accompanied by marriage, a nice house, and a career. In college, Jason began experiencing mental health issues. He would have an episode in which he heard voices and saw visions, but then would be fine. He used drugs as a form of self-medicating. Initially diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Jason believed he was experiencing a spiritual battle (both his parents were ministers). His sister, a clinical psychologist, helped the family recognize that Jason needed more than spiritual help. Eventually, Jason was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.
However, Jason’s behavior got worse and he refused to take medication. His family established clear boundaries and tried to help. After being in and out of the hospital many times, Jason was finally hospitalized for 13 weeks, during which he finally agreed to medication.
The strain this caused for Jason’s mother was great. She didn’t sleep, lost weight, and finally expressed the need for help. She filed a petition for guardianship in Forsyth County, and a hearing date was set. Jason came to the hearing from the hospital. Despite majoring in pre-law while in college, he did not understand what was going on. “I knew that I didn’t want my rights taken away. I thought it was a plan for my mom to be against me. It turned out to be the best thing that happened to me.” The Clerk ruled in favor of guardianship.
Initially, Jason was considered high risk and was placed in a less-than-ideal boarding house where he wasn’t safe to even walk down the street to the store. He complained to his guardians and, as he reports, they told him, “We don’t want you to have a guardian for the rest of your life. We think you are smart. If you want another place, YOU find it.” And he did!
He had two co-guardians from Empowering Lives, “one with a tough-love approach and the other a good friend. I wouldn’t be this well without them.” They challenged him to improve his own life. They supported him in managing his mental illness and recommended switching to a periodic injection to replace daily medications and to interrupt the ups and downs associated with a daily dose.
Based on significant improvement, one year after he was placed under guardianship, Jason’s guardians suggested that he seek restoration of his rights. He was not expected to speak at his hearing, but the Clerk asked him if he was ready. Jason, accompanied by his mother and two guardians, acknowledged that he now needs medication to manage his mental illness. Jason recognizes that mental health problems are stigmatized, especially in African American culture, which expects that personal inner strength will always lead to a positive solution. But he also recognizes that he “can’t just pray it away.”
“I went from being everyone’s problem to becoming a valued part of society.” Today, Jason works as a Visitation Specialist at Empowering Lives. His ability to relate, coupled with his sensitivity, generates good success. “I’ve been through a lot of the struggles that many people with mental disabilities go through. I’ve heard voices, seen visions, and had the mania. I’m not just getting it from a book. I’ve been through it, and when I get together with others, we are united in the struggle.” He still gets some support from the mental health system, mainly in the form of appointment reminder calls, as well as for the decision-making process.
“I do it completely on my own now. Once in a while, I ask my mother for her opinion, but I’m an adult. I make my own decisions. The challenges I faced have brought me to a place where I value the opportunity to help others and appreciate the path that led me to a place of mental wellness.”