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Hopeful about finding Work

I am hopeful that I will find part-time work in the mental health field. I would like to have a position that mirrors that of a Certified Peer Specialist (CPS). A CPS works directly with people who have a mental health diagnosis. They assist peers with recovery goals, facilitate groups, and act as a mentor. However, the position requires special training followed by intense testing, and certification. I plan on applying for the CPS training this summer.

Most of the jobs I am interested in requires CPS training and certification. Even though I am limited in that regard I am enthusiastic about finding work and will continue with the job search.

If you would like to learn more about schizophrenia visit Embracing My Mind, Inc., NAMI, Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).

Mental Health Recovery To Me

Yesterday, in group we had a discussion about recovery- what does it mean to us, how other organizations define it, and tips to reach recovery. I heard various understandings of what recovery means- change, growth, restore what was taken, etc. In addition to getting everyone;s opinion on the meaning of recovery, we read SAMHSA's 10 Fundamental Components of Recovery.

My definition of recovery is focused on action. First and foremost, recovery to me is accepting my diagnosis of schizophrenia, and taking ownership of my well being by seeking treatment and support, and getting involved in my treatment plan with health care professions. It involves speaking up about needs and asking questions. In other words, advocating for myself.

Recovery is accepting change and learning the new Ashley after receiving a mental health diagnosis- that is being real with self and capabilities by revising my needs and goals. For example, the "new Ashley" is aware of limitations as a result of th…

"GIving Back" with NAMI Georgia

Several NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) Georgia trainings will take place on January 28-30, 2011 at Mercer University (Atlanta campus):
Family-to-FamilyPeer-to-PeerIn Our Own VoiceThe Family-to-Family class is 12 weeks and is facilitated by trained family members of people living with mental health. The class provides current mental health information, teaches the family member care giver how to handle relapses and crisis, and other information to help the care giver.

Opposite that, Peer-to-Peer is for the individual living with mental health. The 10-week course educates peers on relapse prevention, advance directives, and mental health education. The class is facilitated by two trained individuals living with a mental illness.

Finally, In Our Own Voice teaches people living with a mental health concern how to share their experience with mental illness in a 60-90 minute presentation. The presentation is supported by a 15-minute DVD and is led by two presenters.

I have perso…

Religious Preoccupation

After a talk, a woman asked me if my faith contributed to my recovery because she noticed that I mentioned it throughout my speech. In addition to that, she told me that she observed people with faith as having a better outcome in their mental health recovery.

First, I came from a family with Christian values. My faith in God started to get intense during the latter years of high school, which in my opinion, is when I started having symptoms. In my experience religion plays a major role in my mental health- its delusions, its coping skills, and in my recovery. In medical terms they call my religious rituals and delusions "religious preoccupation."

Before I was diagnosed I was highly religious. In fact, I wanted to be an evangelist and to go to a Christian college. I would read my Bible for several hours a day throughout the day, listen to hymns, and meditate. Sometimes I would ignore people if they wanted my attention while I was meditating I was in such deep thought. Also, I …

Mental Health Labels

How should I refer to someone living with a psychiatric diagnosis? There are so many terms that are being used to describe someone with a mental health disorder, these terms include:
"Consumer""Mentally ill""Patient""Client""Crazy""Schizophrenic"
For example, the word "consumer" identifies a person with a mental health concern, and only that group of people. Even though the term does not bother me I could understand how it can frustrate other people. It seems like even the medical field has separated people living with a diagnosis from the bunch.

In my opinion, some of these terms are stigmatizing. Some of the terms seem to single people out and to make having an illness a negative thing. For instance, the words "mentally ill" sounds dreadful to me. To me, it seems like the individual will never get well or that recovery is not an option.

On the other hand, "patient" and "client" seem mor…

Living Independently

Do you think it is best that someone living with schizophrenia, or any mental illness, live independently or with a caregiver? I ask this question because it became a small debate in a support group.

One group participant said her doctor suggest that she live with someone even though she strives to live independently. She wanted to understand how is it that people living with schizophrenia live on their own. The therapist said that sometimes the doctor will suggest that a client live with someone because they are unstable on medication or are suicidal among other reasons.

In my opinion, I believe it depends on the situation. I would not make a generalization for all people living with schizophrenia or mental illness in regards to living independently because we are all on different levels in our recovery. In addition to that, many of us living with schizophrenia have various treatment plans that may or may not include medication. I am all for whatever works best for the individual whe…

My Frustration: There is more to Schizophrenia than the Voices

One of the greatest things that frustrate me about living with this illness is the fact that most people do not understand what it is even though they think they know. Sometimes I feel so misunderstood by not only certain individuals but by society. Because when I say the word "Schizophrenia" they automatically think voices and that the individual is crazy or will do something violent.

As you can imagine, it is very offensive when I hear someone refer to another individual living with a mental illness as crazy because I have a diagnosis and I do not view myself as such, nor do I view other people with mental health as crazy. I wish I can get through to other people that think that way and explain that mental health has many faces. Mental illness can affect all sorts of people, no matter what intellectual background, socioeconomic status, age, gender, race, etc. Schizophrenia is much more complicated than hearing the voices.

For me, schizophrenia made me think irratio…

Disclosure Tips for Sticky Situations

In the previous post I briefly discussed disclosure of my illness in regards to housing, and I want to discuss this in a little more detail because people have a right to privacy about their diagnosis. It is unfortunate that some people are open to discuss their mental health, however, sometimes when they think disclosure could be empowering it does more harm than good, due to the fact that other people simply do not understand mental illness.

Although I am open about my diagnosis and experiences to friends and family, and well just about everyone, I am still selective with who I disclose my illness to. I believe sharing such information should be dealt with delicately whenever someone decides to disclose because stigma is still rampant and at work. By no means am I condoning deception, or for someone to lie about their mental health status, I am simply suggesting that people should be cautious.

Due to my experiences, these are some situations where I feel someone should be hesitant abo…

Addressing Stigma in a Commercial

What do you think about the commercial?

I was wondering and getting upset at the fact that I have not found any commercials about mental health and then I found this one. I think it is a great commercial because it focuses on the things people living with a diagnosis endure- stigma. Stigma is misunderstanding, lack of information, prejudice, and discrimination like in the workforce or in housing. I like this commercial because it paints a realistic picture of what life can be like for some of us living with a diagnosis.

In fact, just the other day in group a friend of mine was bringing up his concern about job hunting. He said that he called a retail store and asked someone if they were hiring, the employee replied, "you cannot work you get disability." Comments like that are so ignorant, and upsetting. First, of all not everyone living with a mental health diagnosis is on disability. Second, even if someone is on disability they can still work if they choose to.

It reminds me …

South Korea's "War on Dementia"

Dementia is memory loss and other interferences to the extent that daily functioning is difficult. It is caused by changes in the brain. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia though there are several types. Dementia is a major concern in South Korea with it affecting the 65 and older population by 7 percent in 2000, to an estimated 14 percent in 2018, and 20 percent 2026.

However, South Korea's government is taking charge of dementia. Already they have created a long-term health insurance system and a dementia database. They developed the long-term insurance system by increasing the national insurance premium by 6.6 percent, to assist in the creation of centers and training to care for people with dementia. In 2009, about $1 billion government and public health insurance money was allocated toward dementia patients. While the dementia database enables relatives to register dementia patients and to receive iron on identification numbers.

The fight against demen…

Ice Cream in December

Today was the last class for NAMI's Peer-to-Peer Recovery Education Course for the year. Again, Peer-to-Peer is a 10-week educational course. We studied relapse prevention, mental health education, and advance directives.

The majority of the class graduated today- Yay! We started out with about 12 participants and 8 graduated. Everyone was very enthusiastic, they really opened when it was time to share. We celebrated by eating ice cream- butter pecan and vanilla.

I would love to facilitate another class and most likely will in Spring 2011. So keep checking back for another class!

The SSNS 22nd Annual Conference Experience

The 22nd Annual Conference: Mental Illness- Why Me? Hosted by Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (SSNS) was wonderful! The event took place on Friday, November 26, 2010 at Pier 21. The SSNS Executive Director, Dr. Stephen Ayer, gave me a warm welcome along with the Board of Directors. Dr. Ayer gave me a tour of the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

I had an opportunity to dine with the Board of Directors and a couple of other speakers for the conference. The Board gave me a beautiful gift of a photograph taken by J. Ross. In addition to that, I went to dinner with another presenter from the conference, Ms. Laura Burke and her family and friends.


A Photograph by J. Ross

Speaking at the conference enabled me to share my testimony of living with schizophrenia, and to give suggestions to other people directly affected by the illness. I titled my speech, A Distorted Perception to Reality: My Insight Into Recovery, because for me, schizophrenia forced me to think irrationally. However, the il…

IOOV Presentation on Monday, November 15th

On Monday, November 15, 2010 I facilitated a NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) program called In Our Own Voice (IOOV). The program's objective is to fight stigma by sharing one's story of recovery. The presentation involves a 15 minute DVD of several testimonies that is divided by chapters that emphasize the struggle, or worse part of the illness, acceptance and coping skills, as well as a section on hopes and dreams.

The audience was very receptive to my experience of living with schizophrenia. The audience were mostly police officers, however, the program can be for any sort of audience including consumers, someone living with a mental health diagnosis, students, etc. These police officers were in a training program called Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). They asked so many questions that I had to limit them- it felt really good to have their full attention and to bring about awareness.

I am excited about the program and I look forward to facilitating the next presenta…

Tips for the Family Member

Recently, I wrote about quick tips for the newly diagnosed, however, what about the family members?

If you are a relative of someone living with a diagnosis it is essential to educate yourself about the mental illness. Here are some credible websites that I personally use and recommend to others:
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health AdministrationThe National Institute of Mental HealthNational Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada)
There are FREE support groups for family members. NAMI for example, provides these programs. Participating in a support group has many benefits. Here is an example of benefits:
Obtain personal referrals to resources such as treatment facilities and housing options
Learn from other people's experience how to copeDiscuss concerns with someone who has been there and who understandsIf your loved one is in dire need of supervision and support do not feel bad if you need to get assistance from a hospital, independent living…

Benefits of Writing

In psychology class, we briefly discussed the benefits of writing. In fact, the instructor certified these findings by the studies of a man by the name of Mr. James W. Pennebaker. Mr. Pennebaker suggests that writing about traumatic events has benefits, therefore, I encourage you to 1) write, and 2) to do research on this man and his studies as it relates to writing and possibly helping those with a mental health diagnosis.

One of my coping skills involves keeping a journal. I have written about this as a coping skill in the past that works for me and it may work for you too. Although I do not journal everyday, whenever I do journal it makes me feel good because I can reflect on what I've written in the past or at the moment. Usually, I write about everyday events and my thoughts and feelings about them. I try to stay as candid and frank as possible to answer my own doubts or to make decisions.

In fact, I started this blog initially as a diary to reflect on knowledge I acquired abou…

Quick Tips for the Newly Diagnosed

Recently, I spoke to someone who was newly diagnosed with schizophrenia. Although they did not know what to ask me, I suggested some things for them to do...

1) Find a healthcare professional in the mental health field.

It is best to find a psychiatrist, a doctor who prescribes medication, and also a therapist. A therapist is beneficial because they provide resources and support in addition to therapy. If someone does not have health insurance look into the county mental health centers for services or referrals.

2) Apply for disability benefits.

Because mental health can be so severe to the extent that a person cannot work I strongly suggest that person apply for disability benefits. However, many times people are denied benefits the first time around therefore a person should get support from an agency that provides that service. Lastly, the benefits may take a few months so do not expect a fast turn around.

3) Find a support group.

Many people do not understand mental illness. Participati…

Book Review: Crazy Like Us

The followingbook review was submitted by Eric Fergerson.

Crazy Like Us (The Globalization of the American Psyche) is insightful and thought-provoking. It looks at the influence of Western medicine on the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness around the world. The author Ethan Watters examines this process by chronicling the rise of Anorexia in Hong Kong, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Sri Lanka, Schizophrenia in Zanzibar and Depression in Japan.

Mr. Watters travels the globe to meet with researchers involved in studying these illnesses in their indigenous cultures. He looks at the socio-cultural, historical, etiological and epidemiology of these illnesses. He uses first person accounts along with personal and doctor interviews to develop his thesis. He does not conclude that Western medicine is simply either inferior or superior to indigenous belief systems in regards to ways of healing and recovery. In fact, he states "I have tried to avoid making the cl…

EMM Website Update

The Embracing My Mind, Inc. (EMM) website was updated, please visit the site to see changes, click here.

The mission of EMM is to provide peer support, advocacy, and education to low income and homeless individuals living with serious mental health concerns.

The group provides recovery support groups and other programs to consumers and people affected by mental health. All programs are offered in the Atlanta metropolitan area FREE of charge. However, most programs are closed meetings, not open to the public.

If you would like your organization to provide EMM programs please contact Ashley Smith, Executive Director, by email: info@embracingmymind.org or phone: 1-888-839-3191.

Thank you for your observation. To learn more about schizophrenia visit EMM, NAMI, Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (SSNS, Canada).

5 Tips for Finding the Right Therapist for You

The following entry was submitted by Kitty Holman:

For those who suffer from mental illnesses like schizophrenia, medication can be effective in alleviating the most serious symptoms, but lifestyle management and substantive therapy go further in treating the illness long-term. Since therapy can play a key role in achieving and maintaining stability, it's very important that you be selective in choosing a therapist. While every licensed therapist does have professional credentials, the styles and personalities of each different therapist are more suited to some patients than others. Here are a few tips for finding a therapist that meets your specific needs.

1. Get recommendations from friends or family.

To get a better idea of what a therapist will be like before you meet him or her, ask your friends, acquaintances, or family for recommendations. Word-of-mouth is often the best way to begin an initial search for a therapist because you'll know exactly how the potential therapist …

Denial in the Family Member--A Different Perspective

Since my diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia in 2007 I have participated in several support groups and trainings to be a facilitator. Therefore, I have heard many of my peers discuss different concerns from side effects of medications to lack of support, and many other important matters.

Even though what I am about to discuss may NOT apply to you as a family member or consumer (a person living with mental health concerns) it occurs quite frequently, and thus is the reason to bring it to one's attention...I am talking about denial. Denial in the sense that it is refusal to believe or accept a person's diagnosis of mental illness. Denial comes in many different forms for both the consumer and the family member.
In fact, denial is a manifestation of stigma. In short, stigma is criticism of a person on the grounds of their affiliation with a group (that being mental illness) based on lack of understanding or stereotypes. For example, common misconceptions about schizophrenia is tha…

Schizophrenia Basics

Every so often I like to reiterate my understanding of schizophrenia to ensure that my readers understand the basic information about the illness...

In my experience and personal research on schizophrenia it is a complex brain disorder that affects thoughts, judgment, and sense of reality. Now, I will share with you some of my experiences with the illness.

Before I had knowledge of my mental health condition I experienced diverse symptoms of schizophrenia including the following: A belief that I had special abilities to read other people's minds, extreme paranoia in that I believed that other people were trying to harm me by poisoning my food (even family members!). The fear of others trying to kill me, by serving tainted food, encouraged me not to eat- anything. This led me to lose a lot of weight, at one point I weighed under hundred pounds, which is really bad for my height of 5"5- if you can imagine.

In addition to that, I heard multiple mean-spirited, characterized voices t…

Promoting Wellness with Support Groups

In group today, I reiterated my background in receiving mental health treatment at the center where I receive care...I have come a long way! I re-introduced myself because we had a guest, an intern studying social work.

I remember just two years ago I was struggling with isolation and not interacting with many people outside of my family. In general, isolation is a concern for people living with a mental illness because it is a common symptom. For me, I was comfortable being alone in the confinement of my home with the Internet and my online scrabble games and music. However, I desired more social activity besides family so I forced myself to get out of my comfort zone and to participate in all of the group sessions the center had to offer.

And now I am functioning at an even higher level than before, and I am thankful for the treatment and therapy I have received from the mental health care staff, family and peer support. I strongly recommend group therapy to others who want to enhanc…

Medication Adherence and Violence Management in Schizophrenic Patients

The following article was written by Alexis Bonari:

Medication Adherence and Violence Management in Schizophrenic Patients

Violence is not a widespread problem among people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, but when it does accompany schizophrenia (about 16% of the time), it can become a significant issue. When violent schizophrenic cases arise, it can be difficult for doctors to prescribe a specific course of action because little is known about the efficacy of violence management medication in schizophrenic patients. To address this problem, Dr. Jeffrey Swanson and a team of researchers studied the effects of four different antipsychotic medications on a cohort of schizophrenic patients over a period of six months. In their research, they hoped to find out how medicated patients’ violent tendencies changed as compared to patients who refused to adhere to doctors’ medication recommendations.

Reducing Schizophrenic Violence: Predictors and Solutions

Swanson and his team found th…

Support in College and Current NAMI Projects

Recently, I brought my health concern to the Office of Disability at my college and it worked in my favor- I received the support that I needed and I did not feel belittled, misunderstood, or stupid. There were counselors that took my health concerns seriously and wanted to help me succeed. They offered additional tutoring, classroom accommodations, and a separate testing area, which I did utilize.

I am not sure if all colleges have a disability office, however, it is worth looking into for additional support. For those that are interested, there is usually a process such as getting a letter from your doctor. The letter has a lot information about the individual with the mental illness, including diagnosis, special accommodations, etc. Therefore, if you would like to receive more support from your college look into the guidelines of the disability center.

Finally, college is going okay for me. I am still adjusting to school and participating in groups. In fact, I performed my first NAM…

Getting Help to get to the Next Step

Some people would come to me and ask for advice on how to get through a phase of schizophrenia, like overcoming a lot of sleep and not interacting with people. However, sleeping a lot could be a side effect of medication or not having anything to do, like in my experiences. I do not give medical advice when these situations arise, because I am not a Doctor, however, I do mention experiences and things I did that worked for me. Furthermore, it makes me recall my own experiences and bizarre thinking processes I used to believe.

For instance, after I moved back home with my mother I became very comfortable not doing anything but either sleeping or staying on the computer all day. I did not socialize with other people outside of the family which eventually bothered me. Therefore, I forced myself to get out of my comfort zone and to interact with other people by attending group therapy. Over time my decision to go to group turned out to solve my problem. Accordingly I got more than I intend…

Alternative Treatments for Mental Illness

The following article was written by a guest writer, Maryanne Osberg.

No matter how much we learn about mental illness, its causes and its uncontrollable nature, it is still a stigma for the sufferer. They’re not just wracked by mental demons, they also have to deal with being ostracized by society and sometimes even their family members. Some forms of mental illness are caused by old age – Alzheimer’s and dementia are now becoming even more common nowadays; others are caused by trauma – the sudden loss of loved ones through accidents or breakdown of relationships leads people to act irrationally and become mentally affected; and yet others come about because of neglect and loneliness – people who live alone with hardly any contact with fellow human beings tend to become mentally unstable and forget their people skills over a period of time.

Whatever the reason for mental illness, it is imperative that the affected person be treated immediately. Drugs and therapy are two standard and w…