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'You're not the only one': Charlotte woman hopes her story will inspire others experiencing mental illness

A former homeless woman diagnosed with bipolar disorder has the tools to deal with her triggers after seeking professional help.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Charlotte woman says she is done hiding and wants to be a voice for others dealing with mental illness after escaping an abusive experience. 

Naprice Cathcart said her mother was abused as a child and later on, she experienced an abusive marriage. 

"After I got married, he was real abusive to me," Cathcart said. "I couldn't be at my house and I was just tired. So after the second attack, I left."

She and her husband separated in 2017. Cathcart knew she needed help but she couldn't do it alone. 

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 people experienced a mental illness in 2020. Experts say, unfortunately, plenty of people are still hiding in silence because of the stigma.

"I was a wreck. I had a nervous breakdown during the time," she said. "My health was failing, and I've been through a lot of injuries, so I just needed to get someplace to get ground and feel safe again."

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In 2019, she went to Monarch's Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic in Charlotte. The organization has supported thousands of people in North Carolina with mental illness or substance abuse disorder since 1958.

Desiree Matthews, an Advanced Practice Provider - Clinical Liaison (APP-CL) in Mecklenburg County, said the approach at Monarch depends on the person. 

"Sometimes, it is sitting down with a clinician, a therapist, a peer support person, and, you know, going through therapy and learning new ways to handle and tackle," Matthews explained. 

She added that some patients need help with medication. Cathcart said she stays healthy with a combination of regular therapy sessions as well as taking an antidepressant. She said she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Matthews said COVID-19 also seemed to shine a light on mental illness. 

"A lot of us were really unprepared, struggling. 'How are you going to put food on the table? Are we able to work? My kids are at home now and I'm expected to go to work. What am I going to do with my kids?'" Matthews said. "So I think it really, just for the average person, really exposed some of the vulnerabilities that we may have, and also on the bright side, realize that many of us do have a support system that we can reach out to, whether that's friends or family, whether that's places like Monarch. 

"I think there is a silver lining that during COVID, more people who are willing to say, 'Hey, raise my hand, I need some extra help,' and that's OK. We're in this together."

Cathcart offered her own words of encouragement to those who may be struggling with mental health. 

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"Don't hide. I made a choice that I wanted to live a normal life. I wanted to be in control, that I want to stop living in fear," Cathcart said. "Don't allow the shame and the hurt. Don't allow people that put you down, even as we isolate ourselves because we don't want that stigma. Our families may know about it, but they don't really know because we hide it so well. Be able to be free and know there's help. You're not the only one and you can make it."

Contact Jane Monreal at jmonreal@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

RELATED: New data shows a mental health crisis among youth

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