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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Department of Health and Human Services
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

Last Updated: 7/7/2008

SAMHSA’s Resource Center to Promote Acceptance,
Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with
Mental Health (ADS Center)


Alice Tsai's Story

As a Chinese-American, I have always been a high achiever. However, when I graduated from college and had not gotten into medical school or gotten a full-time job, I felt like a failure. I returned to my parents' home to work at the neighborhood Walgreens.

My mother invited me to visit Taiwan with her. Things went smoothly until I started to feel like people didn't like me. Without telling me where we were headed, my mom took me to see a psychiatrist. I wanted nothing to do with mental illness and the medications prescribed.

By the time I returned to the United States , I was having a nervous breakdown. I was in a stupor; I couldn't enjoy the things I used to; I thought about not wanting to live. My thoughts scared me into seeing a psychiatrist at a community mental health center in town. He diagnosed me with major depression with psychotic features. I chose to take about six antipsychotic medications simultaneously. I started going to Intensive Day Therapy and exercising at home. Within weeks, my mom said, I smiled for the first time.

I started going to the center's rehabilitation clubhouse. Eventually I got job coaches and began looking for work. I found and lost various jobs; then my job coach informed me of a position at Stepping Stones, another community mental health agency in town. I applied for the job and interviewed with the agency's CEO. For my second interview, I met with a roomful of clients. By the clients' unanimous vote, I earned the job: I was the agency's first Consumer Representative, a recovery role model and advocate.

Over six years later, I'm still working and also involved in NAMI locally, statewide and nationally. I have attended an international mental health conference in Australia . I have been published in the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, New York City Voices, Consumer Supporter News, Rockford Register Star, and Schizophrenia Digest. I have helped plan local, state, national and international consumer conferences and been a finalist for the Paul G. Hearne Leadership Award. I love my job and the clients with whom I work. My story truly has a silver lining.

Alice Tsai

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This Web site was developed under contract with the Office of Consumer Affairs in SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services. The views, opinions, and content provided on this Web site do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of SAMHSA or HHS. The resources listed in this Web site are not all-inclusive and inclusion on this Web site does not constitute an endorsement by SAMHSA or HHS.