Schizophre­nia myths get a Re­think

THE FACTS

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By DANIELLE STREET

Ad­man James Al­lan never came face-to-face with schizophre­nia un­til a friend sug­gested he hire a rel­a­tive who suf­fered from the con­di­tion.

Af­ter some ini­tial hes­i­ta­tion Mr Al­lan took the plunge and em­ployed the young man for his firm.

‘‘It’s fair to say I was a bit ner­vous about it, but I hired him for a year and I have to say he was great. He had an in­cred­i­ble mind, he was an amaz­ing thinker,’’ the Kings­land res­i­dent says.

‘‘We treated him like a part of the team, not like some­one with schizophre­nia. And it re­ally changed him.’’

The young man was not the only one al­tered by the ex­pe­ri­ence.

Mr Al­lan had his eyes opened to the string of myths that swirl around schizophre­nia.

‘‘The two big­gest myths out there is, num­ber one, that they have split per­son­al­i­ties and the sec­ond one is that they are vi­o­lent. Both of which are un­true,’’ he says.

Schizophre­nia is a long-term men­tal ill­ness that af­fects the way peo­ple think and act.

Peo­ple who have the con­di­tion may lose touch with re­al­ity and ex­pe­ri­ence hal­lu­ci­na­tions.

Re­think Schizophre­nia is a pro­gramme aimed at re­duc­ing the stigma around the dis­or­der, which ef­fects about one in 100 peo­ple.

Re­think is run by Mind and Body Con­sul­tants along­side the Men­tal Health Foun­da­tion.

Part of Re­think’s cam­paign was hold­ing a com­pe­ti­tion to cre­ate a bill­board that chal­lenges the myths around schizophre­nia.

Mr Al­lan saw the com­pe­ti­tion as a way to sup­port the cause and help ‘‘hu­man­ise’’ the dis­or­der.

His win­ning de­sign is a sim­ple yet strik­ing im­age of a young woman with the words: ‘‘One mind, one heart, one per­son­al­ity, just like you.’’

‘‘For that par­tic­u­lar con­cept I went af­ter the par­a­digm of split per­son­al­i­ties. Some­one might have schizophre­nia, but they are just like you,’’ he ex­plains.

The bill­board is in­stalled on Karanga­hape Rd, where it will re­main for the the month of Novem­ber.

Hugh Nor­ris from the Men­tal Health Foun­da­tion says the bill­board ‘‘en­cour­ages peo­ple to drop the la­bel and see the in­di­vid­ual’’.

There is also a Re­think web­site where peo­ple can ex­plore real sto­ries and ex­pe­ri­ences.

‘‘We hope that the site will give peo­ple the tools to chal­lenge oth­ers who may use stig­ma­tis­ing lan­guage around schizophre­nia,’’ Mr Nor­ris says.

Schizophre­nia Aware­ness Week runs Novem­ber 11 to 17.

Photo: DANIELLE STREET

Myth­buster: James Al­lan’s win­ning bill­board de­sign ad­dresses some of the myths that sur­round schizophre­nia.

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