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Dave Dahl of Dave's Killer Bread shares message of hope with patients at Oregon State Hospital

Dave Dahl (center) with Belinda Sauer (left), OSH Diversity Program Manager, and OSH patient Leora Seward (right)

May 26 - Mental illness is not a barrier to success according to Dave Dahl, founder of the company that makes Dave's Killer Bread. Dahl recently visited with patients and staff at the Oregon State Hospital in Salem to share his story of recovery from mental illness and drug addiction.

"I draw strength from accepting who I am," said Dahl. "It's been 10 years now. If I can do it, you guys can too."

A former drug dealer, Dahl spent more than 15 years in prison. After he was released, he found recovery and inspiration inside his father's bakery where he developed his special line of breads. Pursuing his vision "to make the world a better place, one loaf of bread at a time," his family's company has grown from 30 to 200 employees, about 60 of whom, like Dahl, were once incarcerated. He encouraged patients to find and develop their own passions.

Dahl said the first step was admitting he had a problem. "I had been depressed most of my life and I was treating it with methamphetamines," said Dahl. "I finally realized this was not a sustainable way to live. It was a big deal to ask for help."

Dahl emphasized the roles humility, self-acceptance and medication played in his recovery, something that struck a chord with many patients. After relating that he had struggled with suicidal thoughts, one patient asked how long it took before medication helped. "Not long for me," said Dahl, "but the medication was just one tool. It helped me find the power to realize I was a dreamer and accomplish something."

Dave Dahl, founder of Dave's Killer Bread, tells OSH patients and staff the story of his own recovery from mental illness and drug addiction.

Dahl's talk was part of an ongoing effort by OSH to foster bridges between the hospital and the community. Positive role models are essential to the recovery process for people living with mental illness.

Dahl's story resonated with Leora Seward, a resident of the hospital's 50 Building who is learning to manage her own mental illness and drug addiction. She said she could relate to his checkered past and subsequent redemption. "It was very moving," she said. "I liked that he showed where he came from." She said listening to Dahl has inspired her to move forward with her own plans to become an advocate for people with mental illness. "I want to help them before it's too late."

Dahl said his visit to the hospital was driven by a need to give back. "It's like talking to myself. I know I have a mental illness," Dahl said. "This reminds me of where I've been and keeps me on the right path."

For more information about Dave Dahl, visit Dave's Killer Bread's website.