We discussed a range of Schizophrenia information: the basics or symptoms, myths, and personal testimonies. More specifically, we mentioned the need for more education and success stories in the media. Additionally, "Assertive Community Treatment (A.C.T.)" groups were discussed in regards to helping people living with a diagnosis stay involved in their treatment and to get the necessary resources to move forward in their recovery. "ACT" teams generally consist of a group of health care professionals that assist people in the healing process. Another group that was mentioned to help people stay involved in the community were: "Mental Health Courts." Mental Health Courts were developed for people who had encounters with law enforcement or jail system, mental illness, substance abuse, and/or HIV/AIDS, to stay connected to the community.
Religious beliefs and delusions (having false beliefs) was another topic. I shared experiences regarding my faith and how I did not recognize the signs of mental illness because I thought I was spiritually gifted like the people in the Bible. In short, I thought I had the gift of discernment, whereas, I could decipher "evil" spirits and "good" spirits within people. In addition to that, I did not know what a mental illness was, and I did not recognize that I needed support from a professional because I lacked insight.
Some panelists emphasized that support is crucial to a person's recovery as well as treatment, which I most definitely am in agreement with. A member of the panel even stressed that insight into one's illness was not essential to reach a state of wellness, and that relationships are key to recovery.
One barrier to treatment for some members of the black community were addressed. Some people feel like doctors are not culturally sensitive enough to help them cope with their concerns. However, there are programs being established to encourage and mentor youth black students to get involved in the medical field in order to develop a medical career in the future. One of the ways the program strives to reduce barriers to treatment is to enhance the growth of more black medical specialists to help support the needs of the community.
Finally, with the assumption that media perpetuates misconceptions about mental illnesses, panelists encouraged journalists to also bring attention to people overcoming the illness and educating the public about mental health. Yes, in some incidents people living with a diagnosis may be involved in a crime, however, journalists can also educate the public about the facts through success stories.
Overall, I had a wonderful experience serving on the panel along side influential members and contributors to the mental health field. I felt supported by each member on the panel. I feel honored to have played a role in the panel discussion and to have served on the program along side my fellow panelists. For more information on the NABJ event visit the website at www.nabj.org.
To learn more information about Schizophrenia visit Embracing My Mind, Inc., National Alliance on Mental Illness, Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).