What comes to mind when you hear the word “schizophrenia”?
According to Healthy Place, schizophrenia is one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses (Oberg, 2014), but why is that? Medication and therapy is beneficial in relieving symptoms experienced by those diagnosed with schizophrenia. There are three individuals that are helping fight this stigma and some of these individuals are quite renowned, such as John Nash, Darrell Hammond, and Tom Harrell. These three men have been through the troubles of this disorder, yet they didn’t let it stop them from living their lives, evidently proving the stigma wrong.
A Beautiful Mind, a film, is based on John Nash’s experiences living with schizophrenia while also achieving his goals as a mathematician and economist. He was successful in his career, so much so that he won the Nobel Prize for his contribution of game theory. He later shares that he was experiencing schizophrenic delusions while working on this theory (Living With Schizophrenia, 2017). Delusions were not the only symptom he experienced, he also experienced hallucinations. While he was in and out of hospitals all throughout his adulthood, he persevered. His symptoms were troubling, but he managed to overcome them, saying they eventually “disappeared” with age (Rettner, 2015). Nash had many accomplishments while his symptoms were at an all-time high, yet he rose above them through medication and therapy.
Tom Harrell, a jazz musician, is also affected with schizophrenia. Rebecca Leung, writer for CBS news, stated that Harrell would often disappear suddenly, attempted suicide, and had hasty mood swings (Leung, 2003). Forbes claims that Tom Harrell was bouncing around different medications, constantly struggling with either the symptoms of his mental illness or side effects from the medications. Harrell still claims to see a grey figure every so often, but when he plays his trumpet or flugelhorn, it all goes away. He battles his illness every day, but doesn’t let it stop him from living his life to the fullest and pursuing what he loves. According to his official website, he has recorded 27 albums as well as performed in thousands of concerts (Tom Harrell, n.d). He’s living his dream, despite the obstacles life has thrown at him.
Often, those who don’t seem like they are in need of help are those who need it the most. Darrell Hammond, former “Saturday Night Live” cast member, severely struggled with schizophrenia. CNN held an interview with him where he described his childhood and the horrific abuse he grew up with (Simon, 2011). He was diagnosed with multiple disorders, schizophrenia being one of them. He would inflict wounds upon himself while backstage of the show. In the interview, he even stated that he was once taken to a hospital in a strait jacket after filming (Simon, 2011). Towards the end of the interview, he says, “I don’t feel ashamed of falling down, because I got hit by a Mack truck…The fact is, I kept trying to get back up, and then I did” (Simon, 2011). This statement proves to those who are currently suffering that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Hammond was able to put a smile on millions of fans faces while dealing with his own problems. Through it all, he fell off the horse, but he got right back on.
While schizophrenia is one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses, Nash, Harrell, and Hammond were able to prove this stigma wrong and they did not withstand the obstacles they were faced with. All three men were all successful in their careers and didn’t let their illness define them. Mental illnesses do not define you, you define them. Through their work, these men were able to send this message to those struggling as well.
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