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Women Against MS Luncheon Committee Member Tina Brown Finds New Ways to Advocate for Holistic Health
For Tina Brown, community is at the heart of all she does, from her role as the community advocate for the department of Legislative and Government Affairs at Health Net and Cenpatico Integrated Care to her advocacy work for those with a variety of health concerns including breast cancer and multiple sclerosis.
One of her primary focuses right now is the 13th Annual Women Against MS Luncheon, which is taking place April 17 at the Arizona Biltmore, and which she’s been involved with for the past several years.
Brown, who was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis in 2010, credits much of the peace she’s found with her diagnosis to her involvement with the Arizona Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
“There was a low point in my life where I knew I had to be more aware and educated about MS and that’s where I found the MS Society and I noticed a name on the board, Marion Kelly. We connected and he introduced me to his wife and also shared that his wife has had MS for more than 20 years, which was my turning point,” she said. “It was my connection that finally I had someone in my life that knew about this disease and so they helped me embrace that and ever since then I’ve been an advocate.”
Brown continued to face challenges following her diagnosis, including the death of her father and sister, and was struggling to feel better, which she later found out was in large part due to a medication she was taking at the time as well as a lack of access to mental health resources due to cultural stigma and cost.
Fortunately, through her involvement with the MS society, she was able to connect with other women facing the same challenges who helped her improve her knowledge of MS and the medications associated with it.
“I remember talking to the ladies and we were all sharing our stories and our journey, and I was the one who just blurted out, ‘I’m sad all the time, I’m crying, I’m depressed’ and one of the ladies in the circle asked me what kind of medication was I taking and when I told her she said ‘Girl, that’s why you crazy,’” Brown recalled. “She asked me, ‘Didn’t you read the side effects?,’ and I thought ‘Side effects, no?!’ I didn’t know anything about the side effects, so sure enough when I went back to read the side effects it did say can cause depression and suicidal thoughts and mood changes and anxiety. I was shocked and that’s when I discovered the very low level of my health literacy.”
From there, Brown committed to sharing her story with others and becoming an advocate for those living with multiple sclerosis and mental illness. To continue her mission, she’s even become a certified mental health first aid instructor.
“If there is somebody else that is newly diagnosed I want to be able to share with them my journey and my struggle and what happened to me,” she said. “Hopefully I would be able to help them to continue on their journey positively and live a full life.”
Through her mental health training, role as a community advocate and certification as a health worker, Brown hopes to make a difference by helping people holistically — lending support to both their mental and physical health.