TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – During Mental Health Awareness Month, one Topeka man shared his story overcoming a disease that affects millions.
According to the World Health Organization, schizophrenia affects 20 million people around the world, and Brian Thompson is one of them. Thompson said he spent the first part of his life living normally, but gradually his reality started to change.
“When I look back, I can see an onset around the age of 15 years old. I began to have profound thoughts,” Thompson said.
Those thoughts continued to develop for years. Doctors officially diagnosed him with schizophrenia at age 20.
“Then I heard a voice that said, ‘Brian they can hear your thoughts,” said Thompson. “For the next five months I would hear voices saying, ‘I want to kill you. I am going to harm you. I want to hurt you.’ From an outsider’s perspective, I was pretty crazy looking; walking down the street, arms flailing without anybody there. But on the inside, the voices told me they could hear my thoughts. So I began to think I was telepathic. I began to think I was the savior of the human race. I went to the hospital probably five times in a year. It was pretty rough. I became homeless. I became desperate and hopeless.”
Brian finally turned to Valeo Behavioral Health for help, after coming to a hard realization.
“To accept Valeo, (and) to accept recovery, I had to accept the fact that I could be completely crazy in every way. So either I am homeless and walking the streets as the savior of the human race, or I go to Valeo. I am homeless and all I do is talk to myself all day. Two very two different things. But I had nothing, and I needed them [Valeo] in my life.”
Valeo helped Brian get on medication and get therapy.
“At the age of 23, I became stable, but there is no cure for schizophrenia at all. Even though I was stable, I was still starting from the bottom. I was homeless. I was not cured. I had to go through recovery. Since I lost everything, I had to recover everything. At the age of 25, I had brought myself to the point that I was ready for employment,” Thompson said.
Brian has worked for Valeo for 12 years as a peer support worker. He said, “I know it’s real. I know what it’s like. Over the years, I have worked in many programs, and I hope I helped a few people along the way.”
Coming full circle, and now leading and helping others by example.
For more information on mental health services at Valeo Behavioral Health, visit https://www.valeotopeka.org/. The organization also has an information line, crisis line and detox line: