Aubrey Ralph on Schizophrenia

October 30, 2012

Aubrey Ralph is an audio engineer and radio producer. He's also bipolar. Having a mental illness has made him acutely aware of how our minds can shape and distort reality - especially for people with schizophrenia.



Thank you for including the segment about schizophrenia in your Extraordinary Minds show. My husband of 22 years battles this debilitating disorder and it's hard to describe the intricacies to family members, friends and co-workers. I plan to share this transcript with everyone I know. When Mr. Ralph mentioned there weren't role models for schizophrenics, I immediately wanted to nominate my husband. He's a college graduate and a loving husband and provider. He's artistic, gentle, loving and intelligent. He is my hero!

I am a graduate student in social work and work with adults with severe and persistent mental illnesses.
I certainly appreciate Mr. Aubrey's attention to changing perceptions of what someone with schizophrenia looks like. It is absolutely true that it is difficult to find those role models of "successful" persons who have struggled with schizophrenia.
And yet, the message still delivered in this piece is that someone is defined by their mental illness. "A schizophrenic" was repeated throughout this presentation. Not, say, a father, a student, a bank teller who struggles with schizophrenia. Yes, schizophrenia can be very debilitating and can, for a period of time, be the primary issue in a person's life, but it should not define a person. Just as someone with cancer is not called "canceric;" they are MORE than the illness.
Mr. Aubrey - you have a special type of power in creating a presentation like this because you have named yourself as someone who has battled mental illness. By using the term "schizophrenic" you are saying it is okay to use this language to narrowly define someone. You are not giving room for someone to be more than their mental illness even though you want there to be more role models!
Additionally, the majority of the presentation is devoted to hallucinations and delusions, and only in the last minute or so do you acknowledge that negative symptoms of schizophrenia really are the most debilitating. I am not sure then if this piece is meant to educate the public about schizophrenia or to "entertain" by highlighting the "strangeness" of hallucinations.
Everyday can be a struggle against stigma and essentially derogatory language. As a reporter, and as someone who has faced mental health issues, you have a responsibility to accurately educate the public to change the language used and the attitudes about mental illness.