Schizophrenia.com

Fighting Stigma


#1

Hi. I’m Eugene, and I have sz. When I was in psychosis, I couldn’t read at all. Everytime I tried, it was like the voices were reading along with me and making snarky remarks. But now that I’m stable on meds, I can read again, and I have read a bit about sz.

Reading about sz has helped me cope. I would like to encourage you to take the time and devote your attention to literature involving real-life depictions of psychosis, and especially to the recently published biography Way Out: A True Account of Schizophrenia.

I would like to discuss in brief the powerful potential impact of Way
Out and other books like it. Books like these are not merely good
reads; they are also catalysts for individual and societal change.
A few years ago, Mark Vonnegut (son of author Kurt Vonnegut Jr.)
re-released his classic schizophrenia memoir The Eden Express. Its new
introduction discusses ways “to lessen the stigma” of schizophrenia.
This is very needful. All too often, people with this type of disorder
are prejudged to be monsters. This seldom-deserved yet potently
poisonous stigma can act to undermine the self-esteem and induce
identity crisis in the afflicted. Not to mention making it hard to
secure and to maintain employment and rewarding interpersonal
relationships.

In telling the story of Eugene Uttley’s life and struggles with
schizophrenia, the author of Way Out, Arthur Thomas Morton, joins
Vonnegut’s fight against stigma.

How do the texts of The Eden Express and Way Out function to fight
the deplorable stigma which accompanies a schizophrenia diagnosis? By
introducing the reader to a human being, rather than a scary ‘psycho’.

Another recent schizophrenia memoir is The Center Cannot Hold by Elyn
Saks. Though Saks suffers chronic schizophrenia, she is the Orrin B.
Evans Professor of Law and Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences at the
University of Southern California Law School and a research clinical
associate at the Los Angeles Psychiatric Society and Institute. Touching
on stigma, Saks has said this:

“Some people say I’m unique, that there aren’t other people with
schizophrenia like me. Well, there are people like me out there, but the
stigma is so great that they don’t come forward.”

Who knows how many people are ‘in the closet’ about having
experienced delusions and hallucinations? Schizophrenia is difficult
enough to endure without also having to hide the fact that one is going
through it!

Saks has spoken out against treating the mentally ill as criminals:

“We must stop criminalizing mental illness. It’s a national tragedy
and scandal that the L.A. County Jail is the biggest psychiatric
facility in the United States.”

Authors like Saks, Vonnegut, and Morton counteract the criminalizing
effect of mass media, where the issue of schizophrenia rarely arises
unless it’s tied with violent crime.

Perhaps more important even than combating negative stigma in general
is the specific effect that authors like these can have on readers who
suffer or have suffered psychosis, or who have friends or family in this
spectrum of disorder: letting them know that they are not alone. This
can be a deeply healing realization.

In sum, on both societal and individual levels, books which
illuminate the complex experience of people who suffer delusions and
hallucinations are of great value. They possess the potential to enact
positive change in the world.

Thanks for listening. Please help spread the word.

ps. You can find Way Out by searching ‘Way Out Morton’ on Amazon.


#2

I think another good thing is open community members. I don’t mean that people should just tell everyone they have sz, but personally I don’t hide it. I like to think that the people who know (and I have some people who used to be friends who have probably gossiped to others about me so probably more people than I know) will look at me and see a human being. I function incredibly well, and I like to think that if someone who knows me or knows about me and my several times on the dean’s list, writing awards, and ability to make friends and have a romantic relationship and they have a child who ends up schizophrenic, schizoaffective, or anywhere on that spectrum they will remember me and that I made it to college (I haven’t graduated yet though.) and they will feel more optimistic.