Schizophrenia: The first time I experienced stigma was at university

Illustration of person with umbrella | Secret Schizophrenic, a Time to Change bloggerIt’s not easy when you hear that the probable diagnosis for you is schizophrenia. It comes as a shock to the system, something that you thought would never happen.

Before I started to get ill, I thought the same as what, most likely, is the popular understanding of Schizophrenia - that it was a multiple personality disorder with violent tendencies; something that you would see in the news about murderers. So, once you receive that diagnosis, you start to feel like the popular opinion is against you.

The next question that comes to you is whether you are going to tell anyone. Would my family mind? Would my friends mind? The first people I told were my immediate family, who immediately wanted to keep my problems behind closed doors.

only a few of my wider family members know my true diagnosis

Even now, 3 and a half years into my illness, only a few of my wider family members know my true diagnosis. To any other people who may have enquired why I was in and out of hospital, I was the girl who had “breakdowns” or was “a type of bipolar”.

It is interesting to me that the natural instincts of my parents are to disguise my illness. Of course, this is because they do not want people to avoid me or treat me any differently. What would family and friends say if they knew I had Schizophrenia? I’m not even sure myself but the great shame is that I do not want to find out.

The first time I experienced stigma was when I went to university

The first time I experienced stigma was when I went to university. A month or so into my stay in student accommodation, I was feeling low. What was happening was that I was remembering what happened the year before - my second hospitalisation, which I found to be very emotional. I started drinking that evening and was slumped on the stairs in the accommodation. A few of my flatmates found me and were very worried about me.

The next day I told 3 of them that the year before I had been in a psychiatric hospital, hearing voices and thinking I was being spied on. These people seemed surprised, but were encouraging. However, the next day when I turned to drink again, they said they were fed up with me moping around and that I needed to pull myself together.

I knew then that I had made a mistake in confiding in them 

I knew then that I had made a mistake in confiding in them and that they just wanted to be rid of me. For the rest of the year I had an awkward relationship with them and another friend who I knew, who was friends with one of my flatmates, suddenly started treating me differently. I couldn’t help but wonder if she had been told about my mental health problems.

Since then I have been very cautious about what and who I tell about my mental health. It’s wrong, but I often tell people I have a different illness to ‘test the water’. In fact, I have told a few people that I am bipolar, thinking that this would be a more acceptable illness and just to see how they reacted. I figure that bipolar is more widely accepted and if they can accept that, then perhaps at a later date I could tell them my true diagnosis. I know this is wrong but my fears about the stigma I experienced at university override my want to be truthful.

It was very interesting for me when I started to keep a blog about mental health. I was desperate to talk to someone about my feelings, but having no one in real life to talk to besides mental health professionals and my parents, I started a blog and also set up a twitter. I can’t say how valuable this is, to be able to be free about your diagnosis for once.

Online I can safely say that I have schizophrenia

Online I can safely say that I have schizophrenia, without feeling judged by the online mental health community I have thrust myself into. I really hope that one day I can be open in real life about my diagnosis without fearing that I would be judged.

For now the situation I faced at university leaves me limiting my experiences to online but I hope that through my blog I can change opinions on Schizophrenia, let people know the true symptoms and challenge popular myths. All we need is a little understanding.

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Comments

Brilliant blog and I have a

<p>Brilliant blog and I have a huge amount of respect for you! I hope too that someday you will feel comfortable enough to be open about your diagnosis in "real life".</p><p>I hate it when I see Schizophrenia misrepresented as a split personality or violent. Or whenever someone describes something which is conflicting as "schziophrenic" because it has "two sides". I find this really annoying. Why don't people understand it is a psychotic illness and not about multiple personalities at all? (DID). I don't think people will ever actually understand the true meaning of the condition whilst it is still known as Schizophrenia. </p>

Schizophrenia - the label

I totally agree. As a mother of a 43 year old son who was diagnosed 10 years ago, the word Schizophrenia conjures up all sorts of pre-conceptions about an individual. My poor son suffers so much, on a daily basis and the label he has been given has made things much worse for him and our family. It is a horrid name for an illness and I think Mind should start another campaign to change it to something like 'Mindosis' or 'Mindcycle' ... anything but Schizophrenia! Wishing you well.

Well I did an Art project

Well I did an Art project called "NO LABEL REQUIRED" based on the Richmond Fellowship magazine I used to help edit, this was in my Foundation course at College.....

Thank you for sharing your

<P>Thank you for sharing your experiences. Your blog is extremely well-written and will, I'm sure, be of help to people in a similar situation. I speak as the mother of someone with severe depression who has experienced a number of psychotic episodes, the first being whilst in the first year at university.</P>

How to help someone

<p>Someone in my family has been diagnosed with Schizophrenia but everyone is so secretive about it and I do not know any of the facts. I would like to offer my support and help, does anyone have any advice about how to approach the subject directly with the person? </p>

Hello, there are some general

<p>Hello, there are some general tips about talking about mental health on our site:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/take-action/talk-about-mental-health/talk-someone-about-their-mental-health-problem">http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/take-action/talk-about-mental-health/talk-someone-about-their-mental-health-problem</a></p><p>One of the recommendations is "Find out more" and you can do a bit of research on the websites of:</p><ul><li><a href="http://www.mind.org.uk/help/diagnoses_and_conditions/schizophrenia">Mind</a></li><li><a href="http://www.rethink.org/about_mental_illness/mental_illnesses_and_disorders/schizophrenia/?shortcut=schizophrenia">Rethink Mental Illness</a></li><li><a href="http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Schizophrenia/Pages/Introduction.aspx">NHS</a></li></ul>

The best thing you can do is

The best thing you can do is treat them as though they are normal. If they say something silly then laugh it off and move on with the conversation. Be yourself. put yourself in their shoes and treat them how you would want to be treated. Talk to them how you would like to be spoken to. Just listen. Hope this helps. They are. slightly different. But isn't everyone different? =]

I admire the Secret

<P>I admire the Secret Schizophrenic for writing about her experiences of being stigmatised at university. I cannot imagine how hard it was having the courage to&nbsp;tell&nbsp;fellow students&nbsp;about her diagnosis and to then feel shunned by them,&nbsp;I am so glad that she has found a place to 'talk' through her blog and twitter, for her and for the rest of us who can read about anothers' experiences. She may give others the courage to talk, and I truely believe that the only way we are ever going to break down the stigma around mental illness is through talking, demystifying, and therefore helping others to overcome their (unjustified) fear around 'people with mental health issues'. Keep going, and I am hopeful that one day she may not be 'Secret', but out and proud!!!</P>

Stigma

, i had mental health problems when i was 20, ive been stigmatized ever since. I had a psychotis episode from lsd and was diagnosed schizophrenic. I didnt have schizophrenia and i havent had medication or relapses since that first time but that doctor ruined my life with that diagnosis. People never treated me the same again and im left with an ache in the left side of my head. With out this and the stigma i would have have been fully over my problems Psychosis and schizo problems are so diverse and different that one word (schizophrenia) cant categorise anybody because every case is different

you can recover from schizophrenia

I heard voices in my head at the age of 18 when sleep deprived and under stress. Luckily I never went to see a doctor, so I was never diagnosed and I recovered completely once I started sleeping again and made peace with my parents. I was causing trouble at school and they were angry with me. Had I gone to a doctor nowadays, I would have been diagnosed and drugged and told that I was suffering from an incurable severe mental illness. I shudder thinking about it! So don't dispair, you can get well. Check out websites like "Mad in America" and you will read a lot of recovery stories. Check out Louise Gillet's blog "Schizophrenia at the school gate" She was diagnosed once and is doing well now ten years later, bringing up a familly etc

diagnosis

I have to say that this attitude that all mental health professionals want to do to people is label them and keep them locked up and drugged up. This is counterproductive stigma in it's own right. The ideas that 1: psychiatrists are stupid and keep people locked up and drugged up for fun and b: mental health wards are places of torture, are just as unrealistic as the idea that all people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia are evil twisted axe murderers. .A single episode of psychosis brought on by sleep deprivaton or drugs is not schizophrenia, and no dr would diagnose it as such. Fear of the doctors, brought on mainly by popular perceptions formed by the media, stops lots of people getting help.

Diagnostic Bias

You are lucky if this is your experience, but you can't speak for everyone. Mine directly negates the points which you are making. I have been locked up 4 times and each time a tribunal has decided that there was no risk at the time of detention, but my doctor likes to take the mould of, detain first, ask questions later. I haven't been walking down the high street naked, or violent or visibly disturbed to anyone else, or any other scenario that you might imagine. I do things like staying awake all night and getting confused when I speak to the next person, but throughout this I'll be eating/washing/dressing. The difference is only noticeable to those who know me well (my mother). The first time when the doctors were called, they found me sitting in the sun room, reading, the second time I was detained when I presented for a routine appointment... Over this time I have been a university student, and now hold down a profession. I am a tiny, bookish person who does not take illegal drugs and barely touches alcohol, for my own reasons. I come from a nice, detached house with a front lawn and my parents also work in the professions. My parent's home is where I return when I am unwell. I also have black skin and long (upward) natural hair. I have noticed in my medical records, that my hair raises eyebrows among clinical staff in the very white part of the country in which I live. At least 2 (similar backgrounds to mine, but fair) people whom I know have a similar experience of their illness to mine, but their respective psychiatrists have, in each case, elected to "protect" them from the upsetting environment of a psychiatric ward and provided home treatment. Oh how I wish. I was mis-labelled with schizophrenia by my psychiatrist after only my first episode, even while auxiliary staff maintained that it was unclear. 7 years later I have a firm diagnosis of bipolar disorder, however the greatest damage to my life has, empirically, come not from days of actual sickness, but by needlessly prolonged detentions such as being detained for 3 months even when the sharp edge my symptoms settled down within the first 2 weeks. It's different for everyone and I would find it helpful to see some engagement with the different levels of prejudice experienced by patients with different backgrounds. I know that I am not a one-off and that there various other forms of prejudice which distort the treatment that different people receive. A Sophie Lancaster would be diagnosed (judged) more harshly than a Taylor Swift, for example. A Bo Bruce would get kid glove treatment in comparison with a theoretical Kerry Katona. Psychiatry, for all its grandeur, is not an exact science. Right now the NIMH is discarding the DSM. Its legacy will take years to dismantle. I am still wrestling with the hurt caused to me by the abuse which I received while an inpatient. It has caused me to distrust my psychiatric health providers, but worst of all it has jaded every aspect of my relationship with the world. I used to want to go out into the world and lead change, now I save my natural optimism and generosity for a very tight inner circle. Even my career ambitions changed. Cold.

I totally get what you

I totally get what you mean!!! I've made the mistake also of telling people FAR too much but I'm keeping it quiet from now on. I just don't know hmm I think for the people I know it's quite disturbing how far 'down the rabbit hole' I go. Like I'm seen as the responsible, church goer, always up for a laugh and quite rational. Then when I'm ill, I think people are plotting against, I've threatened my own family and walk out the house with the oven still on because I wanted some sweets and nearly burn the flipping place down. I believe they see me as an attention seeker and an outsider, or her with the issues. All I feel it is now is just an excuse to justify why I can't meet deadlines for assignments, or why I don't turn up to lectures. I feel like I'm just complaining. I guess it doesn't help when you need to be seen by services urgently and you're well known to them, yet they just brush you off like it's nothing until that is they threaten you with hospital admissions because you want to hurt other people. I say it's up to you if you want to tell them and you have the control of how much you disclose to them. You could just start it off as a random topic in a conversation and you don't have to say anything about you, then you know whether they will have the right temperament and attitude towards mental health. It's just a thought but it might help.

There is life beyond a diagnosis, trust me....

I was diagnosed with schizophrenia eleven years ago. Since then, I have been told that I had a life sentence. Not true. Five years ago, I quit smoking weed with the help of dual diagnosis practitioner and after a year of her listening to my crap, we agreed I didn't need her any more. During that time, I did every thing an anything to get the addiction of pot out of my head. Would go tothe gym, and volunteer with anything and every thing. I even joined the local poetry society with senior people. Since then, I developed a very successful social club for guys with mental health issues, et al. From that experience and work that I had accrued on my cv, I have been able to find work that is real. Five years on from quitting smoking weed, and eleven years on from a very acute and serious mental break down, I am now married to the most awesome woman in the world, have a job and career as a support worker and am hoping to to back to uni to read social work ma. I am 36 years old and really thought that life was over when I was given that diagnosis. To help come to terms with it, I am very open that I am schizophrenic and to my shock, not many people really care. As long as I work hard, get to work on time and engage well with clients, things are okay. In a nutshell, as long as you can keep from street drugs that may have led you to that state, keep yourself busy and feel positive about life, the sky truly is not even the limit. You can do it.

weed

My son smoked weed heavily for 12 years but stopped six months ago, when he became convinced he had some kind of mission and should purify himself. Since than he has been very distressed with delusions of persecution, obsession with death and eternity, good and evil, a couple of episodes of hearing voices... some of these symptoms he already had but they have got worse. He has been told by a doctor that he probably has schizophrenia and has an appointment soon with a psychiatrist. He hasn't worked for years. He often feels he would be better if he smoked weed again but this terrifies me. Do you think some of his problems were caused by the drugs (he used cocaine and other substances at times) and could perhaps get better with time? There seems to be an idea that weed doesn't cause withdrawal symptoms but I feel it does. Could symptoms last so long? Do you have a web site for your club or a blog? I think your experience might help him. Thank-you.

The 'Schizophrenia' label

I also feel really strongly about the label of 'Schizophrenia'. It does so much damage. I had high hopes that the Schizophrenia Commission would take action to change the name - the best alternative I have heard is 'Thought disorder' but any change would be good - anything to get away from the stigma caused by one hundred years of negative press. I was very disappointed to hear at Rethink's National Member Day yesterday that the Commission have not taken this step. The report is due to be published next Wednesday. I have just written a blog post about it - I would direct anybody interested to my blog, 'Schizophrenia at the Schoolgate'.

Are there 2 types of schizophrenia?

The descriptions of shizophrenia on this page are not the schizophrenia I know. It is an awful condition where a relative becomes paranoid. I thought paranoia was an irrational fear, it is more than that because what often follows the paranoid thought is an irrational action in response which sometimes can be unsafe. Attempts to destigmatise this serious condition could make it more difficult for some patients to get the treatment they desperately need, not to mention support for relatives. Schizophrenia can be hard for the patient and even harder for all those them.

stigma

Destigmatising schizophrenia isn't the same as watering down the severity of the illness. Destigmatising means removing the horrible ways that people with schizophrenia are treated by some while at the same time reinforcing the seriousness of the illness.

There are 4 or 5 different

There are 4 or 5 different types of schizophrenia (not counting schizoid type personailty disorders). The most common is Paranoid schizophrenia and no they are usually not violent. People like you spread rumors that are not based in fact, you cause 'the stigma'..

Schizophrenia

I have a close relative who has schizophrenia and the story has been long and painful. He developed the illness at 30.. He then disappeared for 10 years. He has since been stable and on medication but he cannot work and is not really able to participate in society - Reading this website I realise that my reaction to it has been one of complete denial. I support him by visiting him and calling him regularly...but .I keep him at arms length If I spend a lot of time with him, I begin to think I have mental illness myself. I find myself getting annoyed then feeling guilty, I sometimes feel afraid as I do not understand why he behaves in certain ways. His doctors have never discussed his symptoms with his close family or given us any information, I have never been told directly that he is schizophrenic, I think the fear of labelling leads to confusion for the family - we can see a pile of symptoms but I am never sure if it is peronality or symptom, except when it is extreme such as physical repetitive habits or voices. When I saw the ad on TV for this website I thought....ah those poor people I'm glad I don't have to deal with that. And then I realise that I do. I guess I feel guilty because I wish I didn't as that is my relative, that is who he is right now, and I do love him anyway but yes, it is hard, and I feel guilty that it is hard.

i was diagnosed 2 years ago

i was diagnosed 2 years ago at 20 years old and then living in a super unstable household and living situation. it wasn't really a full diagnosis, the doctors really shocked us with the way they went about telling us. but it made sense to me, people have been telling me that i have these weird breakdowns and whatnot, i have memory gaps, i have identity issues, manic depression.. and when stressed psychotic episodes of extreme paranoia. i don't want to take medication i think it is trash. i think that integrating myself in society, staying off drugs and having a stable lifestyle is what's best for me which is what i'm doing now. i'm still learning a lot all the time about this illness, i get scared and think that i might not be able to accomplish all the things i want to do because i have so many goals. and i am constantly changing my mind, and sometimes my life becomes unbearably stressed out. but i'm constantly changing my mind about things and i just want to be able to follow a neat little path that's completely of my own making. i tried resolving this issue, which has burdened me for years (indecisiveness, inability to make things happen) via depression, by joining a cult. but that only served to make things worse for me. ahhhh. ahh. ah. thanks for telling your story, seeing someone who is in a similar boat go through university and manage their life is honestly so relieving and inspiring.

cool

Heya i am for the first time here. I came across this site and I find It truly useful & it helped me out a lot. I hope to give something back and help others like you aided me.

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