Friday, May 13, 2011

Encourage Each Other

Five years ago I was living an ordinary college student life. I did not anticipate a battle with mental health, nor did my family. In fact, I do not think anyone living with a mental health diagnosis anticipates a struggle with mental illness.

However, during the process my family and supporters held my hand through my experience with Schizophrenia and gave me hope. I am fortunate and blessed to have their support. I started a mental health outreach group, Embracing My Mind, Inc., because I would like to encourage others to have hope. I want to give back to the community and to support other peoples' recovery process so that we can "overcome mental illness together!"

Thank You

Now, I am overcoming Schizophrenia with the support of my community: family, faith-based group, treatment team, peers, professional associates, and you, my readers. I am grateful especially for my mother, because she supported me during our most difficult trials with this illness. For caregivers and family members, I am sure you can relate.

For me, the illness led me to believe that family was against me to the extent that I believed that they were even trying to harm me in some incidences. At one time, I was very upset with them for reasons that do not make sense, and that I cannot recall. My mother is my number #1 supporter, thank you, Mom, for your unconditional love and support, I could not have excelled in recovery without your special touch. Thank you!

I have come a long way in my recovery, but I did not do it on my own. I had a plethora of support. I want to acknowledge treatment groups who have helped me along the way, but I understand that they may want to remain anonymous and I respect that. To those nurses, doctors, social workers, and other treatment team members that have directly worked with me especially when my illness was most severe- Thank you. Thank you: for checking on me, sending me to the emergency room, talking me into medication compliance, encouraging me to get out of my comfort zone or room, insisting that I tend to personal hygiene, educating me about my illness, etc., etc. You saved my life, and I appreciate all of you!

Be Supportive

With that said, I encourage all of us to support each other, we all need encouragement whether we have a mental health condition or not. I, like many of you, remember certain teachers, coaches, and other community mentors who have spoke hope into my life and who have encouraged me to push forward, and thus, impacted my life.

People living with a mental health concern especially need our support because there are so many misconceptions around mental illness. In other words, stigma or negative perceptions carried out in daily conversation, media, etc.

We can support the mental health community by donating to advocacy groups, volunteering, listening and talking to individuals with a mental health concern with respect, and correcting others when they speak inappropriately about mental illness. We can write letters to media groups to voice our opinion about the good and the bad images they portray about people living with mental health.

It takes a community to build people up, my experiences is just one of many stories, who are overcoming mental illness. If you have a mental illness I encourage you to seek treatment or to continue to mature in your recovery.

As a group leader, I've heard too often the lack of support people receive from family members. Therefore, I encourage others to seek out support and resources by participating in support groups. Support groups are meetings for people living with a mental health diagnosis who share experiences and offer support to each other.

Embracing My Mind, Inc. provides education-based recovery support groups in the Atlanta area to shelters, rehabilitation centers, transitional housing programs, and other community-based groups. Our goal is to reduce stigma, change perceptions, and to promote awareness.

Schizophrenia Documentary

My personal experience with the illness is one of three stories featured in a Schizophrenia documentary called, Living with Schizophrenia: A Call for Hope and Recovery. It portrays a positive image of what someone living with the condition can do for themselves, and for the community, with treatment and support.

The 25-minute film offers hope for those affected by Schizophrenia, and I want everyone to see this documentary because it vocalizes the untold stories of recovery, which can be possible for a lot of us living with mental health. I think this project was a great production by Janssen, a pharmaceutical company, that promotes positive images of people living with an illness, unlike many other films that show too much of the suffering and struggle, which we, individuals, living with the condition can most definitely recall, as well as caregivers, family members and other supporters. For more info on the documentary visit:

More Schizophrenia Info

To learn more about Schizophrenia visit Embracing My Mind, Inc., National Alliance on Mental Illness, Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).


Galen said...

Great post, Ashley! My son has schizophrenia and, since his first major episode in 2006, it has been a difficult road at times. But right now he is doing better than he has in 5 years, and I am finally feeling some hope.

Ashley Smith said...

Hi Galen,

I am very happy for you and your family. Having this illness has its ups and downs, however some of us are fortunate to receive treatment and to have hope.

Take care,
Ashley Smith

Darren J. Prior said...

Hi Ashley,

I love your blog! I have paranoid schizophrenia also. I have a radio programme on NearFM the community radio station for Dublin North-East in Ireland. It is a current affairs programme in Irish. You may like to have a look at it and have a link to it on your other blogs section ( Not many people know I have the illness and I get paranoid that people will know and treat me like I am a bit "touched" but part of me thinks that I should just show people that the illness is not to be feared!
Namasta/Le meas,

Ashley Smith said...

Hi Darren,

I am glad you have a positive attitude about living with mental health. I appreciate your openness and for sharing info to your radio station. I will check it out soon.

Thank you!

Ashley Smith

Linda said...

Hi Ashley. I am am adult child of a parent who had Paranoid Schizophrenia my entire life. Up until I as 40 yrs old my Mother was only on meds maybe 5 years. It was horrifying as a child to grow up under those conditions. I am now 50 years old and she just passed away last month, but the last 10 years she was on meds. I soon plan on going to therapy as I still have issues from my childhood. I have alwasys wanted to find a blog/site such as this. My daughter actually found your site. Hang in there babe, sounds like you have a good support group. God Bless,
Linda Brittain

Ashley Smith said...

Hi Linda,

Thank you for the encouragement! Yes, Schizophrenia can be a challenging illness to overcome for anyone. I've experienced my personal battle with the illness, but through it all I survived it.

I cannot imagine what you experienced growing up, however, today, with adequate treatment and support many people with the condition can live fulfilling lives, for themselves and others affected by them.

I am glad you and your daughter found this blog too. I hope you will feel comfortable commenting again, that way we can learn and grow from each others' experiences.

Thank you for sharing.

Ashley Smith

Julie Gammack said...

Ashley, I sent you something on a different page, I think, so I'm sorry if this is a duplicate. Congratulations on the blog! I started a blog just this week about my son's schizophrenia and he has actually posted comments articulating his own experience. This has been a great opening in communication.
Here's our blog:

Julie Gammack

Atlanta cosmetic surgery said...

Every disease is hard to fight and you need support from the fellow sufferers to make it better for you.For those who have gone past the problem...they must come ahead and help.

Erik Blaire said...

I overcame paranoia by writing a book about it. To help others I'm giving it away as a FREE online read and pdf download. Visit

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