“It can be a scary illness but it doesn’t make the people who have it scary people.”
Hannah aspires to finish her Master’s degree in mental health but a bigger goal is to live a happy and fulfilling life. She wants to tackle the stereotypes that currently exist around schizophrenia and smash the social stigma of a condition that affects 20 million people worldwide.
Diagnosed a decade ago, the 30 year old says she remembers hearing the word ‘schizophrenia’ for the first time. “I knew all the stereotypes surrounding it, like horror movies. I was thinking what does that mean? Am I dangerous? Does it mean they’re going to lock me away? I didn’t really know what it meant.”
Schizophrenia impacts a person’s thoughts, perceptions, emotions, and behaviour. It can cause those affected to lose touch with reality and psychosis that may include periods of false beliefs and hallucinations.
Rachel Green CEO of SANE, the national organisation representing Australians living with complex or severe mental ill health, says treatment and support for schizophrenia has come a long way but community awareness of how it can be managed hasn’t and stigma remains.
“Schizophrenia is not someone with a split personality, that is a myth. People living with schizophrenia are people like us, with hopes and dreams and ambitions for the future. Those living with schizophrenia may experience challenges but it’s not the barrier to a fulfilling life.”
Ms Green says it’s time to rethink generations of bias. “A person with schizophrenia doesn’t simply exist, they can be highly educated, creative and well accomplished individuals, removing the shadow and shame that is still attached to this mental illness is long overdue.”
Hannah says understanding psychosis, what it is and why it’s happening helps her manage, she admits flippant slang such as ‘psycho’ and ‘schizo’ has an impact but is hopeful that through shared stories others will gain greater understanding too.
“People just think if they’re unwell at one point that they can never get better from that, but they can. They’re human like everyone else and want the same things like everyone else does. It can be a scary illness but it doesn’t make the people who have it scary people.”This Schizophrenia Awareness Week, Hannah is partnering with SANE to share her story and call for better understanding and recognition. Learn more about Hannah’s story here