More thoughts on Violence and the Media’s portrayal of people with Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders

So, today, I’d like to continue discussing schizophrenia spectrum disorder and the violence from and against people who have this disorder portrayed in the media. Specifically a 1998 horror film called “Strangeland” in which they have the main villain/character as a delusional schizophrenic that goes by the name of Captain Howdy, And has a penchant for torture and body modifications/piercings.

I’ve never seen the movie honestly, but it also goes to a though that back then I wouldn’t have thought existed as the World Wide Web was seemingly in its infancy with the public. But that’s how he apparently got his victims and got them to agree to meet with him, through online interactions. It also speaks to a dangerous trend both for schizophrenics and people that might wish to use their weakness for their own pleasures or advantages.

But this movie portrays quite a bit of torturous violence and I had trouble just reading it, knowing that they set a dangerous precedent in the media by portraying someone with schizophrenia like that. And it’s not the first film to have done that. There are others. Donny Darko comes to mind, but I can’t remember how much violence “Donny” used against others. I definitely remember the rabbit man in the movie scaring the shit out of me and giving me hallucinations of a similar manner when I was a teenager. It’s definitely not a movie I’d watch again. And one I definitely don’t recommend anyone with a mental disorder watch because it’s seriously effed up.

I guess this blog post will include a little more than content of “Strangeland”, but if you want a uhm… insight as to what my schizophrenia was mostly like? Look none other than to “Suckerpunch”. In that movie it portrays a young woman in a mental institute, that when she dances in there, it completely alters her perception of reality and brings her into a whole new one. A more high fantasy adventurous action packed reality where she was nearly limitless in what she could do. That was me as a teenager after my mother died. Her death fractured my reality so badly that I was literally leading a double life.

There was me, a teenager just starting junior high school, then there was me, Robert, with three friends that were named, Pescado, Branch, and Vincent. They were with me side by side most days, and they made sure I kept what I was doing in their world, their dimension under wraps from the people of the real world or 3rd dimension as they called it. As my first therapist told me and my dad, it’s like a permanent LSD trip that I was experiencing. That same therapist had estimates that if my dad and step-Mom hadn’t sought therapy for me, in six months I’d have been out on the streets. And thinking back on it? He was probably right.

And that’s a lot of the problem with these movies. People see them young, when they are impressionable, getting these ideas in their heads that somehow, someway, if they ever come across a schizophrenic that we are to be feared as psychopathic killers, that torture people, or that we go to these effed up insane asylums where they mistreat us, and we go into these alternate realities, and lose complete control over everything. Well, the latter is partially true. At least in my case it was. There are varying degrees to schizophrenia, hence some psychiatrists wanting to rename it psychosis spectrum disorder. Doesn’t matter the name though, the stigma will still be presented in the media to satisfy humanity’s need for drama. There will instead be movies about psychotic killers that will be said to have psychosis spectrum disorder. And the cycle will continue. That’s why it needs to end.

People need to understand the truth about us, they need to know that even though there is a slightly, and I mean SLIGHTLY (as in 2-4% above the normal populace’s 2% of people that are prone to violent tendencies), doing the math that is approximately 4-6% of the schizophrenic population that is at a higher risk for violence towards others. 1% of the worlds population is estimated to have some form of the schizophrenia spectrum disorder, which means approximately 70-75 million people have the tendency. For this equation we’ll use 75 million.

So, of that 75 million, 4% have violent tendencies towards others. 6% towards themselves. But I’m only concerned with the number of the “towards others” right now. Yes, the “towards themselves” is very important, and they definitely need help too, if not more than the “towards others” group. Anyways, 4% of 75 million is 3 million. 3 million of the 7.5 billion people in the world. That is .04% of the world that has a schizophrenia spectrum disorder and has violent tendencies. Remember that number. Also remember 1/2500. That’s the chances of running into a person that has schizophrenia and has violent tendencies. The number is probably MUCH lower than that given those schizophrenics are only violent when having an active episode (generally).

Just taking that 1/2500 chance of running into a schizophrenic that has violent tendencies, you have more of a chance (in the USA), of: “unintentional poisoning and exposure by a noxious substance” (1/70), “drug poisoning” (1/75), “opioids including both legal and illegal”(1/109), “all motor vehicle accidents” (1/102), “dying as a car occupant in a motor vehicle accident” (1/583), “dying as a motor cyclist in a motor vehicle accident” (1/846), “dying as a pedestrian in a motor vehicle accident” (1/561), “assault by firearm” (1/285), “exposure to smoke, fire, flames” (1/1506), And “fall on and from stairs and steps” (1/1754). (All statistics taken from the Insurance Information Institute.) and those are chances of dying. So a persons chances of a violent encounter, much less dying from one, are EXTREMELY ASTRONOMICALLY low.

So the portrayal of the victims of a schizophrenic psychopath named Captain Howdy in the movie, Strangeland? They won’t be you. Or… anyone you know. And probably nobody that anyone you know, knows. Or anyone they know, knows. Even though those are just estimates. But the point is, you shouldn’t watch these movies and think, “Oh, if I end up meeting someone with the schizophrenia spectrum of disorders, I’m going to be the victim of horrible torture or violence and possibly death”.

Instead, if you meet someone with one of the schizophrenia spectrum disorders, please, act with empathy and compassion. Don’t corner them with hate and malice. If you do, your making the risk of your fears coming true sky rocket. If they are actively in a state of psychosis, and they have extremely odd off the wall thoughts, or they tell you and you believe them to be serious, let them know that there are people out there that can help them, and that you’re one of them.

Reassure them that you’ll help them get through whatever it is that they are experiencing. Act with compassion. And if they do get violent? Don’t call the police, call an ambulance. Tell them what you know and that you think they might be having a psychotic episode. Ask for a trained mental health professional to assist in getting them the immediate assistance they need. If you do call the police, ask for the same thing. Try to remain compassionate towards them and know that what they are going through is only temporary, and it can be fixed and reoccurrences can be avoided.

All we ever want is for someone to help bring us back to reality. The scared voices and shadows we see? You honestly think we enjoy getting shot in the head and waking up thinking there is a bullet lodged in your brain for an hour? I was lucky that my dad was around that morning and that I was so scared that he would find out about the other dimensions, that I kept silent, and ignored the pain in my head, until I was able to get out of the house, and one of my hallucinations was able to remove the “bullet” from my skull. In the playhouse. In my dad’s back yard. The short answer is, did I ask for any of this to ever happen for me? Did I want it? No, this was the last thing I expected or ever wanted to happen to me.

All I wanted was to be normal. And if you get us the help we need and aren’t afraid of us, I guarantee you that we ALL have the potential to be normal. Thanks for reading this long winded blog post if you managed to get through it 🙂 I appreciate each and every person that reads this! You can make a difference in our lives! And if you have this disorder, you can make a difference in your own life, just ask for help!

Drugs and how they can affect people with Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorder

Okay, time to tackle this topic in this weeks blog. (I’ll probably be posting weekly on Sundays). The schizophrenia spectrum disorders and the correlation between acquiring the disorder and the drugs that potentially give a person a higher chance of this. Cannabis LSD, and amphetamines are by far the most common drugs that can cause an increased risk of becoming schizophrenic in the future. Some studies suggest that using Cannabis at the age of 15 can increase the risk of acquiring schizophrenia type disorders fourfold by the time you’re 26. Now I don’t know about anyone else, but I had my experimental phase with Cannabis. I smoked for a month straight with my ex Caleb when I was 22 years old. I was also taking my antipsychotics at the time (Seroquil). And this experience has lead me to believe entirely that Cannabis can increase the risk of developing schizophrenia. I didn’t get high. Not once. No change. Smoked several different types, from the crappiest to the stickiest and best I could find. No luck. After about a month, Caleb told me that I couldn’t smoke with him anymore as I was a “waste of weed”. I honestly was only doing it due to peer pressure, and quickly reverted back to the “I’ll tolerate it, but don’t try to push it upon me, I’m against doing it myself” person I was before that phase.

ANYWAYS, I firmly believe the research that backs it up because my medication (I’m assuming) blocked all the receptors that the THC would have locked on to, to give me that high feeling. But another experience I had when I was 19 years old and dating my first boyfriend, Wayne, was actually getting a contact buzz from when he would smoke around me. Those times I got a bit of a buzz from it, but I also wasn’t taking my medicine properly at all, not like I was when I was with Caleb in the earlier years of our relationship.

So there you have it. Taking Medicine=Nothing happened, and Not Taking Medicine=got a contact buzz. Obviously the Meds had something to do with me not getting high.

As for the other two drugs. LSD is a known very powerful and potent hallucinogen. It can cause vivid and powerful hallucinations, aka what people would call “tripping” on the drug. It can also cause horrifically scary ones, which people will refer to them as having a “bad trip”. My old therapist and psychiatrist both pretty much told me the same thing. My schizoaffective hallucinations were so powerful that I was having visual and auditory hallucinations all of the time. They said if i didn’t take the Meds, I’d continue to be on a permanent LSD trip.

I didn’t believe it at first, and had a hard time adjusting to the drugs they were giving me. It didn’t help that I was also prescribed an amphetamine named Concerta at the time. That, the doctors believed amplified my hallucinations. But they couldn’t take me off of it due to my narcolepsy. Perhaps it would have been better? I’d have had less hallucinations, but would have been sleeping all of the time and probably would never have finished high school. Anyways, that’s the third type of drug. Amphetamines such as cocaine, or the prescription ones used to treat narcolepsy and ADD/ADHD. They don’t necessarily cause schizophrenia type disorders, but they will amplify the hallucinations.

Anyways, the article I linked talks about a study that linked Cannabis to schizophrenia in a way they hadn’t really considered prior. They found out that it is (in part) genetic, and if you already have a genetic disposition to develop schizophrenia or someone in your family has it, then Cannabis can definitely increase your risk up to something like fifty fold of developing it. Probably not the best thing to do.

So in conclusion, if you like doing drugs and haven’t ever considered the consequences of them, know this: “Cannabis, LSD, and Amphetamines such as Cocaine can increase the risk greatly or exacerbate the development of schizophrenia in a person predisposed to it.” Families of people with schizophrenia, know that you can’t control or stop a person from using, as it’s their choice, the best thing you can do is educate them on the risks associated with doing it. I for one don’t care about Cannabis use, it starting to become legal in a better portion of the USA, but just understand what it can cause. A devastating disorder that can and will take over and destroy your life if you just let it go unchecked. There is help out there, all you have to do is ask for it.

Click this link to read further on this topic.

This My Story (A portion of it anyways)

That’s me, up there on the cover photo on the right. My name is Robert Smith, and I have schizoaffective disorder. That is a disorder of the mind that affects perceptions of reality and causes other mood symptoms such as manic or depressive stages. It’s causes are unknown, but there have been certain links to genetics, environment, and stress.

So, a little history on me to start this blog off. I was born in Willoughby, Ohio (I think, it was either that or painesville), to my loving parents. I grew up a generally happy child, from what I can remember, and at age five my parents had my sister.

When I was 10 years old, my mother was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. After nearly three years, she succumbed to the disease. I was nearly thirteen when it happened. She was 39 years old.

The tragedy hit my family hard, and it certainly hit me very hard as well. When my dad woke me up the morning after she passed away, and told me what had transpired, I looked over from his lap and saw her sitting there, smiling.

That was the first hallucination I ever had.

Afterwards, as I grew older, my mind constructed a world of great detail and imagination. I was fairly immersed in that world, flipping from reality to fantasy day by day.

The grief counselors just said it was a coping mechanism to cope for the grief of losing my mother at such a young age and that it would go away eventually. They were wrong.

It didn’t go away, and it only got worse. The hallucinations devolved into much more vivid ones, as well as horrific ones. I started writing when I was 16. Trying to put my deranged delusions and thoughts onto paper.

When I was 17, during my chem course… I was doing some homework (an experiment) at home. It involves cutting pieces of fruit and weighing them on a scale. I don’t believe I’ve ever told anyone this, but while I was down in the basement, the hallucinations happened. One person I saw was telling me to take the blade I was using, and cut deep into my skin because it would free me from my pain and allow me to see my mother again.

I had the blade positioned and ready to cut, but then I heard a voice. Looking up, I saw my mother, whom at that point told me not to do it, and that everything would be okay, I’d make it through.

I don’t exactly remember what sparked my step-mom to get my dad to take me to a psychiatrist to get evaluated, but I did. When the results came back, my dad told me they were in, but didn’t tell me what they were. I asked him if I had schizophrenia. He said no.

Then a few weeks later I found the paperwork that specifically said I has a certain type of schizophrenia. It was schizoaffective disorder. I felt betrayed that my dad would lie to me and that I had to find out that way.

I began on medicine, but I was quite resistant to taking it in the beginning, hiding my pills, making it look like I had taken them, when in reality I had not.

As the years went by, and I grew up, my mentality changed. I knew the hallucinations were not real, and eventually I was able to recognize them for what they were.

Now I’m on a steady cocktail of medicine that works for me, and allows me to live highly functional lifestyle with my husband.

My goal with this blog is to help spread awareness to people, and let them know that they can’t continue to sweep us under the rug. With nearly 70 million (est.) schizophrenics in this world, we need help to become fully functional people in society.

The myths of us being violent, and killers as we are generally portrayed as in the media is false. I’m here to help tear down that stigma, and I hope anyone reading this blog does the same.

-Robert