Published as part of Schizophrenia Awareness Week in the U.K.
All people think of when they hear the word "schizophrenia" is the ramped-up media headlines about the very rare occurrences of people with the illness turning violent. The majority of people who experience schizophrenia are only likely to do harm to themselves.
I wanted to challenge the media stereotypes with my make up design. I chose the word "nutter," which is often used to talk about people with schizophrenia, and to make it look like it was on a tabloid I used red and white.
The stereotypes the media projects are prejudicial, unfair and unhelpful. They don't help people with schizophrenia, or their friends and family.
My diagnosis is paranoid schizophrenia. I first became ill when I was in my 20s, and I did not receive the help I needed. This resulted in over 20 years ping-ponging in and out of the old asylum system, with multiple admissions. Whenever I was discharged I would avoid having my injections of medication, which would result in me becoming psychotic again. Then I would get returned to hospital, where the same failed cycle would be repeated. On my last admission in 1991 I asked to have my medication by tablet rather than injection. I have taken my tablets every day for the last 20 years, and it's meant I have not become psychotic or deluded.
This has enabled me to get a BA (Hons) from the Open University in Politics and an MA in Social Policy from Brighton University. I also tell my story at various events and produce graphic books that help explain mental illness. This has been a therapeutic and cathartic process, telling my story in my words, not in the terms of other people, and I have a tangible product to share with friends, family and caregivers.
I was selected to be a peer support worker for the NHS, supporting those with mental health issues. I will be editing a newsletter and also producing graphic books for service users and carers too. Knowing I may be able to help others gives me a huge sense of achievement.
My experience of paranoid schizophrenia, and crucially the lack of the right treatment, has meant I have missed out on forming relationships, having a family, a career and making a home, as well as other aspirational things that others have. But today I have the use of my brain back, and I can say I am in a happy place.
Watch Andrew's story via this short film:
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