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Courage To Come Back: Winner of Mental Health award recognized as a pioneer

Jackie Hooper

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Her battle with depression started so long ago, doctors barely knew what to do with her. Today she is recognized as a pioneer in how we treat and house people with bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses.

The News1130 series of Courage To Come Back profiles starts with a look at Jackie Hooper, the winner in the Mental Health category.

You could say Jackie was always slightly ahead of her time.

She joined the Canadian Womens Army Corps at 17, and later earned her pilot’s license, all while studying for a BA in Economics, the first of her four university degrees.

An abusive marriage, a former best friend who slandered her at work and cost her job, and her younger son becoming involved with a rough crowd spun her lifelong depression out of control.

Her suicide attempts landed her in the psych ward, but she managed to turn even this into an opportunity to be ahead of the curve.

“One West at UBC was so great, when I was discharged, I was determined to sort of… well, Im kind of an activist… I figured there should be a place like that in the community,” she explains. “So we started an apartment block in the West End.”

That was in 1974, today that block is known at The Hooper Apartments, which were named after her.

“Well, it’s the only thing I’ve done that Im proud of in my life and Im sure glad I did it!”

Forty years later, Coast Mental Health provides housing to nearly a thousand clients.

As for Jackie, her battle against depression continues, but at 87, she continues to endure.

She hopes anyone hearing her story will come out from the shadows of mental illness, and seek help.

“I think they should get over it and feel like its a broken arm or a broken leg. It’s something that happens and you can get over it. It’s a chemical imbalance in the brain, I believe, and so you take a few chemicals and you’re normal again.”

She manages her mental illness through a combination of therapy, writing, painting, and above all, walking.

“Walking is the greatest thing for depression I advise other people to do.”

News1130 is a proud sponsor of the Courage To Come Back Awards, handed out May 8th in Vancouver.