Mental Health Awareness Week: What it's like to be a student with schizophrenia
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Image credit: Ehimetalor Unuabonaon, via UnsplashAccording to NHS UK, schizophrenia physically changes how a person thinks and behaves. People often have episodes of schizophrenia, during which their symptoms are particularly severe, followed by periods where they experience few or no symptoms. Many people seem to think that schizophrenia is not the sort of condition that will ever happen to them or their family, but the truth is that schizophrenia affects more than 21 million people worldwide. There is no specific type of person prone to schizophrenia, and the exact causes of schizophrenia are unknown. What is known, however, is that it cuts across all racial and social groups, occurs in all the countries and communities of the world, and affects men and women alike. Everyone is at risk. One of the most famous people to have lived with schizophrenia in modern times was American mathematician Professor John Nash - winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics - whose life-long struggle with delusionsa and hallucinations is depicted in the award-winning movie, A Beautiful Mind, starring Russel Crowe. For young people and students, schizophrenia is particularly relevant - it's a predominantly 'young condition'. Most often the first symptoms will appear between ages 16 and 25 and in their early stages are often mistaken for the usual emotional turmoil that occurs around that age. It is vital that young people are on the lookout and are educated about schizophrenic symptoms: schizophrenia is an intractable condition and early intervention gives a better chance of recovery later on.
"When everything looks normal, but feels really scary. Something doesn’t feel right but I know nothing is wrong."
Illustration courtesy of Babylon Health, find more illustrations hereWhat are the symptoms to look out for? Schizophrenia can often be a severe condition that will prevent the person in question from engaging in their usual routine for lengthy periods.
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- The most important thing is acceptance. Don’t criticise all the time. Avoid saying: “Why don’t you do this, why don’t you do that? Don’t talk nonsense”.
- No matter how crazy expressed symptoms may appear you, they are real enough and are often terrifying to the person experiencing them. Try and understand this rather than isolating the person further.
- It is better not to react at all than to over-react. Don’t challenge, tell them off or overload them with information or instructions.
- If the person you are helping is struggling with an every-day task, offer to do it for them - things like washing up, clearing up, doing the laundry, preparing basic meals, or dealing with routine paperwork might be a struggle for someone suffering an episode.
- Hang in there - love them. Let them know that whatever happens, you will stand by them.
Lead image courtesy of Babylon Health, find more illustrations here