Schizophrenia: A Change Is Gonna Come

Schizophrenia is an ugly word. It is an equally ugly disorder. To those afflicted with this disorder, the pain, both psychological and physical, is virtually unbearable, and too many times, as suicide statistics bear out, the pain is unbearable. To most on the outside looking in, it is incomprehensible, an enigmatic set of thoughts and behaviors (and if an affective component exists, moods) that stir the exaggerated fears of those who witness its effects. Ignorance, and I don’t mean that word in a derogatory manner, is the birthplace of those exaggerated fears.

This will be one of my final blog posts before I participate in a talk to be given at a nearby high school early next month. I want to thank the teachers and administrators who helped to bring this engagement to fruition. Your understanding of the importance of mental health is a testament to your foresight and courage. But, as important as teachers and administrators are, the real heroes of this talk will be the students.

During my high school years (in the late 1980s), depression was not talked about. For quite a few, this “common cold of mental disorders” was the shame of families unfortunate enough to have to deal with depression’s own devastating effects. Now, not even a quarter of a century later, a group of 200+ high school psychology students will sit in the same auditorium with a man who has paranoid schizophrenia. Now that’s pretty f-ing cool.

What has changed from my generation to this one that has created an atmosphere in which such an interaction can occur? Better medications? Sure. Better therapies? Sure. More public exposure to persons with severe mental disorders living in the community? Maybe. The change could be due to a lot of reasons. However, there is one fundamental idea that seems to have caught on in the last two decades that wasn’t around as much when I was in high school (and definitely not in my parents’ generation). That idea? That mental disorders of any severity or of any kind are not the fault of the people who are afflicted with them.  

This fundamental shift in ideology has been so subtle yet so profound that this new generation of teenagers, a growing number of whom accept this idea as a fundamental truth and who are simultaneously pushed down instead of lifted up by many in the older generations, will change the world. They will change it faster, more meaningfully, and in more dramatic ways than any generation to come before them. They will take severe mental disorders like schizophrenia out of the frontier mentality in which it has languished for centuries and provide for them the vigor and vitality of compassion, empathy, and ultimately better treatments. For this, they should be uplifted, encouraged, and lauded.

In closing, I would like to thank the students with whom I will be speaking early next month. Thank you for following my blog. Thank you for taking an interest in mental health issues. And, thank you for your willingness to sit in an auditorium for 1 1/2 to 2 hours with me, for having the courage to listen to my story and then to ask questions about my experiences, and for taking what you and I learn together and applying that to touch real people’s lives. Because there are real people (millions of them) out there who are really suffering, some of whom are ashamed of their disorders, and some who have no means to help themselves. You will be the generation to change their lives.

Thank you.


5 thoughts on “Schizophrenia: A Change Is Gonna Come

  1. Anonymous April 30, 2010 at 7:51 pm Reply

    >Mental illness awareness has come a long way just in the last few years and with the young people learning more about it today, we have a lot of hope for the future. Thanks to you for openly and generously sharing your story, people will see that real people suffer from these disorders, not just some remote person somewhere. It is all around us. I wish we would have been aware of it so we might have recognized your symptoms…Mom

  2. jackee72193 May 3, 2010 at 10:23 am Reply

    >i think that you being open about your disorder will help people relize that jus because soemone has a disease dosent mean they are a completely different person. i think itll show how people can get through anything that comes there way and show that they are strong enough mentally and physically that they can inspire others to do as you do everyday.

  3. chelsaloo May 3, 2010 at 10:29 am Reply

    >i am one of the students that you will be speaking to and i as an individual am interested in hearing abuot your life and how you have lived with it. i think that it will be nice for people to hear about it and how it has affected you. it will be cool to meet someone who has the disorder.

  4. eb May 3, 2010 at 3:04 pm Reply

    >Thanks, jackee! I appreciate your words. Being open about my disorder has been a mixed bag, but I don't for one minute regret my decision. Your support and the support of others has helped me realize that I have indeed made the right decision.Will you be there at the talk tomorrow (May 4 @ NCWHS)?Best wishes…eb

  5. eb May 3, 2010 at 3:07 pm Reply

    >chelsaloo:I think it will be cool to me you all, too! Thanks for your support and I look forward to tomorrow morning. 6:00 AM wake-up will be interesting for me! Take care and hope you enjoy the talk/Q&A session…eb

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