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I assume from what I have read, heard, and watched in movies and on television, that most people when they hear the word schizophrenia, they think of a scary kind of madness – asylums, voices, violence, loners, and a whole lot of creepiness.

The image I would like to blast out to the world is the image of some of the people I have encountered with schizophrenia. There is Bethany who is writing and working on research to better the understanding of schizophrenia. There is Allie who works full time, goes to school, writes, and runs a nonprofit to fight the stigma against mental illness. There is Kevin who is an artist and working on a movie about schizophrenia and other projects. There is Michelle, who is an entrepreneur and has her own business trying to raise awareness of schizophrenia, and there is Esme, an award-winning writer, and of course, there is Elyn Saks.

Elyn Saks is the person most people hold up as a successful example of someone living a fulfilling life with schizophrenia. Many people who are not as famous as Elyn, but who have schizophrenia are living lives with jobs, relationships, paying the bills, running business meetings, going to class, speaking, writing, driving, grocery shopping, etc.

I would like to change what people think of when they hear the word schizophrenia. Instead of asylums, creepiness, loners, etc. I would like people to imagine an everyday person with challenges that might be a little different than the next person’s but with the same hopes, dreams, and desires.

Many people talk about the appropriation of identity and culture. In simple terms, that means, profiting off of someone else’s culture, story, etc. I used to get angry and frustrated when I would see, or read about people without schizophrenia telling or sharing the story of someone with schizophrenia. I felt as if people with schizophrenia are creative and capable of telling our stories without others doing it for us. I no longer feel that way, though.

I would like to see more movies and books with characters who have schizophrenia, but I would like to see those characters normalized instead of stereotyped or sensationalized. I think that is the way the number one way to kick stigma by making schizophrenia commonplace and showing our similarities to others rather than our differences.