Courage to Come Back 2019: B.C. woman battled schizophrenia, now helps other suffering from mental illness

Courage to Come Back Awards: Erin’s story
WATCH: Erin Emiru wins this year's Courage to Come Back award in mental health for overcoming a crippling case of schizophrenia to be an adviser to others with mental illness. Catherine Urquhart has her story.

“Supported and full.”

That’s how Erin Emiru describes her life after her battle with severe schizophrenia.

Emiru’s has a loving husband, a rewarding job, and helps others battling mental illness — all despite requiring 14 hospitalizations over the years.

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Courage to Come Back Awards: Harriet’s story
Courage to Come Back Awards: Harriet’s story

“It’s scary,” she said. “When I’m very ill I believe there are microscopic rats inside my head eating my brain, and that terrifies me.”

She also battled an eating disorder and abusive relationships.

Her schizophrenia was eventually treated successfully with medication.

READ MORE: Courage to Come Back 2019: As a teen she was told she’d never walk again. They were wrong

Amid the chaos Emiru earned an honours undergraduate degree and completed a master’s degree in neuroscience.

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“I’m a pretty determined person,” she said. “It wasn’t easy and it was harder than it would have been without my schizophrenia.”

Now the 40-year-old is transforming the lives of others with mental illness. As a peer support worker, her life experience helps her connect with clients.

“Just so you know this quiet room I’ve been in,” she recalled telling someone. “I’ve been on this bed, I know what it’s like in here.”

READ MORE: Courage to Come Back 2019: B.C. mom won’t let painful disease stop her from raising a family

“And they turned around and they said, ‘I’ll talk to you but no one else.’”

Emiru hopes to make a difference by sharing her story with others.

“I think because I’m willing to put myself out there I’m helping bring down stigma and discrimination.”