Andrew Echeguren – San Francisco, CA
Andrew’s early childhood was rather typical and what to be expected for a kid growing up in a middle to an upper-class family in San Francisco. He had a supportive family, went to good private schools and had a large number of friends. Andrew loved to play sports, he earned good grades and he was socially comfortable.
Soccer was one of Andrew’s favorite sports and he played it well. His love of soccer led him to his first job, working at a kid’s soccer camp during a summer while he was in high school. It was during this job and influenced by the emotions he was having about it that things started to change for Andrew.
“I was so stressed about doing well at my soccer coaching job that I started to lose sleep”, Andrew recounts. “My lost sleep turned to insomnia and from there my mental health deteriorated quickly”.
Andrew’s brain health challenges climaxed one day while he working at the soccer camp. At one moment, he was teaching the kids. The next, he found himself running down the road away from the soccer camp, paranoid that the police were following him.
The paranoia and insomnia grew worse, and soon it was accompanied by unwanted voices in his head. Most often, the voices would present themselves as altered lyrics in the songs Andrew was listening to. Andrew knew that the voices were not normal, but that didn’t matter – it all felt too real.
Andrew’s mood and outlook worsened as his mental health struggles began to more broadly impact his life. Many of Andrew’s high school friends noticed that he was acting differently, and in response, they voiced their concerns to him. However, because of the stigma that surrounds mental illness, Andrew chose not to share with them the specific challenges he was experiencing. His friends were scared of what was going on with him and because they didn’t know what to do, they began to withdraw their interactions with him. Andrew was becoming more and more isolated and he felt that it was his fault for what was happening. As his struggles grew, so did his inability to concentrate during school. He progressively began to behave more erratically and isolate himself even more.
As bad as it got, Andrew finally found a way to tell his parents about the brain health challenges he was experiencing. He was lucky they responded quickly and got him the professional help he needed that included psychiatrists, talk therapists, and multi-family group therapy. In addition, after they were notified, Andrew’s high school agreed to implement a flexible schedule that allowed Andrew to finish his course work while taking some time away to focus on his health.
“Thankfully, I had the early support of my family and access to quality healthcare professionals,” Andrew recounts. “I also took my medication as prescribed, and to this day I feel like that is an important part of my current mental well-being. If it were not for early intervention in my psychosis, I do not believe I would be here today to tell my story.”
Through their hard work on improving Andrew’s mental health, Andrew and his parents and his healthcare providers stuck together to turn his life around. It was the early intervention applied through a team-based approach that enabled Andrew to fully recover and become a full-time college student and healthy, contributing member of society today.
Andrew graduated from college in 2015 and he now currently works as a PR/Marketing professional at an agency in San Francisco that partners with tech, healthcare, and entertainment clients. He thoroughly enjoys the profession he is in and loves getting to work on cool projects with talented colleagues. He also loves to hang out with his friends, he enjoys the company of his loving girlfriend, and he plays basketball and runs weekly.
Andrew’s own lived experience with a mental health condition has made a positive impact on how he lives his life now and what he does to help others. In his spare time, Andrew volunteers for Strong365, a One Mind funded program that serves as a resource hub that helps connect young people and their families to care for early-stage psychosis, and for NAMI San Francisco, through which Andrew shares his brain health story in front of a variety of different audiences including working professionals, high school students, and college students. In 2018, Andrew was a guest speaker at our Music Festival for Brain Health, where he shared his story and thanked those in attendance who donate in support of One Mind’s brain health programs.
We at One Mind are very proud of Andrew and all of the other brain health heroes who have helped decrease the stigma surrounding mental illness by openly sharing their stories. To learn about One Mind’s efforts to significantly increase gold standard care access for youth with early serious psychiatric illness and to significantly increase recovery rates, please visit the ASPIRe program page of our website.