My name is Steve Bell. I am native of Southern California and father of three adult children. Married to a compassionate and lovely lady named Peaches for 35 years, we have lived in Colorado Springs since 1996. We met at a Christian camping program for disabled children and adults in the Sierra Nevada mountains in the summer of 1980 and married in Fresno, California the following spring.
The year after our wedding I earned my BA degree in political science and public administration from California State University, Long Beach. As part of my education I interned as a research assistant to a consultant with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. I was part of a team that wrote an administrative start-up manual for community mental health centers in 1979.
During the first half of my career as an insurance agent, I was a volunteer lay youth minister doing leadership coaching with dozens of teens over a six year period. Many of the young people I worked were high-achievers who were active in their local churches. I learned then (and later as a father of three teens) that no family is immune from the problems created by financial stress, societal pressures, addictions and yes...mental illness. I believe God's love and grace are real and powerful and that the promises He gives in the Bible are true. Nevertheless, parenting a teen or young adult with a psychiatric disability or similar challenges requires extraordinary wisdom, hard work and active support from others who care.
My own personal struggle and recovery from bipolar disorder is described on the 'My Story' page of this website.
It is because of my lived experience with serious mental illness that I have strong empathy for those who live with a 'storm in their brain' and for those who love us. I have been a mental health advocate and community educator since 2005 when I became an active volunteer with the Colorado Springs chapter of the Depression and
Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA).
In 2007 I was elected president of the chapter and served in that role for three years. During my tenure two specialty support groups were formed: one for military veterans and another one for victims of sexual abuse and violence. DBSA Colorado Springs also has support groups for teens and young adults AND for family members of loved one's with mood disorders.
After I shared my recovery story publicly for the first time at a community event at Colorado College in May of 2007, I had a very emotional conversation with a woman who was new to DBSA. She asked me how I could hold down a job and have bipolar disorder?
The woman had been recently diagnosed with the condition and her life was falling apart. She had been forced to resign from her job as a successful real estate broker due to the severity of her symptoms. Her boyfriend was leaving her. Her home was about to be foreclosed on and her savings accounts were nearly empty. Distraught and in tears she looked at me, pleading for answers and encouragement.
I honestly had nothing to say except to tell her that we, her peers at DBSA were there to walk with her through this very difficult journey. That conversation spurred me to look for an answer to that woman's question. I started to actively research and learn more about the unique challenges people with psychiatric disabilities have in the employment arena. I also had many conversations with people whose lives and economic stability have been severely disrupted by mental illness and was encouraged to discover that many of my peers around the country had moved beyond 'sickness and treatment' to having successful careers and stable incomes. Treatment, life coaching and employment services are all essential. Understanding these facts led me to become recognized as a leading advocate for improved vocational rehabilitation services for persons with disabilities. From 2008 to 2014 I served as the only consumer representative from Colorado Springs on the State Behavioral Health Planning and Advisory
and then as a member of the Colorado State Rehabilitation Council(2010 to 2013).
In 2012 I completed two years of formal training and passed a rigorous national certification exam to become a psychiatric
rehabilitation practitioner (CPRP).
Since then I have been teaching classes and coaching adults one on one; people who are ready to go beyond traditional treatment and want to become more than just 'ex-patients'. I work very hard to teach and model for my clients this truth: recovery from the impact of mental illness on ones life requires, among other things, a blending of new attitudes, behaviors and thinking patterns that can lead to success in one of the most vital roles in adult life: meaningful paid employment.
In June of 2016 I retired from 31 years in the insurance business to devote all my time and energy to following a dream: to help others who want to recover from serious mental illness become economically independent and enjoy life in a valued role in the community.
Now as a life coach and employment specialist
under the business name ALEGRIA MENTAL
I am continuing my journey of helping people with disabilities that began over 40 years ago.
I love what I do and it is my sincere desire and prayer that I will have the opportunity to be what I call a 'blessing broker' to you and your family.
-- Steve Bell, CPRP