Schizophrenia and National Mental Health Month 2011
Ashley speaks out because of her faith. Rebecca wants to be a positive voice in the community. Joshua feels privileged to serve. All three courageous peers tell their stories in "Living with Schizophrenia: A Call for Hope and Recovery" (Janssen 2011). You can view the hope and recovery film yourself. I attended the film screening in Washington, D.C . last week and spoke with these brave individuals.
National Mental Health Month is in full swing and I wanted to write about the film now to show you that recovery is not only probable it is possible. Upwards of 85 percent of the people diagnosed with schizophrenia reach the stabilization, stable and recovery stages in their lifetime.
What's remarkable about the stories Ashley, Rebecca and Joshua share is that they survived hell and came back to help others recover. Joshua works as a peer specialist at his county jail. Rebecca writes the "Heart of Topeka" blog for the Topeka Capitol-Journal, focusing on the good works of people making a difference in her community. Ashley is a mentor who founded Embracing My Mind, Inc. (EMM), a peer support group that helps other people living with schizophrenia. Her blog OvercomingSchizophrenia should be read regularly. I've been a fan of it since it first started something like five years ago.
I feel that May is the perfect time to highlight the accomplishments of people living with SZ to counter the negative media portrayals. I suspect that as long as I live it will be a battle to be taken seriously when violent stereotypes rule the press and instill fear in others.
Those of us who are in a position to speak out should. My memoir, Left of the Dial, will be published next year. I'm coming to terms with the idea that the details of my recovery will become public knowledge. This is why I have nothing but respect and awe and admiration for Ashley, Rebecca and Joshua.
It matters to me that everyone has the equal opportunity to recover. Even for the minority who will struggle greatly all their lives I would hope they can live with some comfort. For people with persistent disabling symptoms treatment with Clozaril, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and cognitive remediation can help treat refractory schizophrenia.
National Mental Health Month occurs in the spring and rightly offers hope and encouragement to those of us living in recovery and others who can hear our stories and be educated and inspired. I speak out publicly because it is my goal to aid in healing society of the stigma which is like a disease itself.
You should not have to feel guilty or ashamed because you have a diagnosis of schizophrenia. I also know a lot of us are abandoned by our friends and lovers and even families when we get sick.
Sadly, today a significant number of people when polled would not want to work for or with someone with schizophrenia. The number is equally as high when it comes to those who wouldn't want to date or marry a person with SZ. I refuse to live in silence. Possibly I have a tough skin because the stigma carries no weight with me. I simply won't let it affect what I think of myself or whether I will do or not so something out of fear of reprisal.
In the end: this is why the "Living with Schizophrenia: A Call for Hope and Recovery" film matters. All three peers risked the stigma because they believed in their vision that people can recover.
Join me now in answering the question of the month: Who Are You? Let's show our own faces.