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Rated: E · Monologue · Political · #1996385
I used this piece for a speech which I gave at a political gathering.
For ten years of my life, I believed I had a rat in my brain. In that time, I made multiple suicide attempts, was incarcerated, and involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital. I have schizophrenia.

Today, I am living a full and productive life. The adversity that nearly ruined me; now is an asset, from it I’ve gained a voice; from it I’ve gained purpose.

I have witnessed the shortcomings and successes of the mental health system. I’ve been both harmed and aided by those there to support my recovery.

Right from the time I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, the mental health system failed me. The psychiatrist who diagnosed me gave me a prescription, and sent me on my way. No follow up visit. No real concern for my well being.

A couple months after receiving a schizophrenia diagnosis, I attempted to take my own life. First by cutting my wrist, but after failing, I set plans to hang myself. I tied a noose and hid it away, fortunately someone found it. Fortunately, I’m still alive.

A doctor I spoke to assumed, like many would, that I had attempted this suicide due to emotional distress.

However, the real reason I attempted to take my life was not emotional. It was based in fear, in paranoid delusion. I believed that people intended to do me serious harm. I believed that suicide was a way out. But my doctor didn’t question his assumptions. If he had, he and I could have done real work to resolve the distress that plagued me.

Resolution to my confused state of mind did not come until I began working with peer specialists. Peer specialists are people who have faced the challenges of mental illness, have recovered, and support others who are afflicted with mental disease.

It was four and a half years after receiving a schizophrenia diagnosis before I met my first peer specialist. No one in that time really understood me. They medicated me, and even impacted me so that I may get better.

But there is no college degree that will help you understand a person suffering from mental illness as much as you would from having been there yourself.

Our mental health system is currently housing too many people in jails and psychiatric hospitals. I can say from experience that this is because we are too reactive in treating mental illness.

The current system of mental healthcare, does not adequately address mental health challenges until there is an impending danger, or legal entanglement. Then the treatments administered are generally an imposition, and sometimes harmful.

We must aggressively utilize peers to both educate and support those diagnosed with mental illnesses. We must end the era of a repressive mental health system that stigmatizes and marginalizes those who it is there to heal.

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