Rising Flame conducted an IGTV live on World Schizophrenia Day, May 24, 2021, in conversation with Reshma Valliappan, founder- director of The Red-Door project. Srinidhi Raghavan hosted the session on ‘Schizophrenia, being in the world, and more’.
“I’m often asked what accessibility for schizophrenia looks like, and it’s a very difficult question to answer. I can’t explain to people what schizophrenia is, it’s only something you can understand upon experience. Laws haven’t changed over a decade. People with schizophrenia can still not run their own companies, be a director, get into politics and stand for presidential or ministerial positions. Only people have the power to change things around them. The problem lies in the fact that we live in a world where we can’t look at people beyond the labels they carry, and this comes with being adults. That’s why I love to hang around kids and animals,” she said.
Talking about diagnosis, Reshma said that with an evolution of symptoms, schizophrenia has been increasingly difficult to diagnose correctly. This is something a lot of mental health practitioners can attest to. A good deal of the symptoms of schizophrenia often overlap with other mental health disabilities like ADHD, autism, bipolar disorder, etc. This often leads to misdiagnosis.
She also spoke about the need for change in behaviour of mental health practitioners, who are a part of the system that does not let people with schizophrenia have any autonomy. Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals often can’t look at us as more than our diagnosis. “It’s imperative that we are identified as a person, beyond the diagnosis. Why else would I trust someone with my life?”
Therapy is unaffordable, so it’s horrible that we are told that we ‘need’ therapy to fix ourselves. That we don’t have any value without our psychiatrist. “I’m only schizophrenic because it’s relative. All human conditions are relative to the people around us. They are not relative to animals, or nature. My cat doesn’t care if I talk to voices.”
People with schizophrenia often say that they don’t feel like they belong. Reshma says that the best thing you can do for anyone, not just people with schizophrenia, is to accept the fear they come with. To remember that we don’t need to fix them, we just need to accept them, because they are accepting our fears in return too.
As advice to caregivers, she says that cracking jokes really helps breathe the adversity off the situation.
As a concluding note, she quotes, “We are not human beings having spiritual experiences, we are spiritual beings having human experiences” and reminds us that it’s also World Turtle Day today, and it’s okay to be like turtles. That it’s okay to live in your shell.
You can watch this entire conversation on our instagram here.