Schizophrenia Awareness Week is an important part of our annual calendar.

MIFWA began as a community organisation almost 30 years ago. Formerly called the Schizophrenia Fellowship of WA, we were created by families wanting better support for their family members who had been diagnosed with ‘Schizophrenia’.

We always host Schizophrenia Awareness Week with mixed emotions. The week gives us a chance to publicly stand alongside people whose lives have been impacted by this diagnosis. At the same time we are reminded of a lack of understanding and the stigma that can be significant part of disclosing mental ill health. For many, the experiences linked to the diagnosis have been hard. A struggle, not only to live with whatever the experiences manifesting as ‘schizophrenia’ are, but also dealing with the subtle and obvious distancing that we do as a community because we do not understand it.

Mental ill health is part of our human experience. It occurs across cultures, ages and communities. A diagnosis is only part of a person’s experience, it is not who they are, it should not define us.

There is so much we don’t know about Schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is a much-debated concept. It is constructed through the lens of medical model and psychiatry and linked to a set of symptoms and experiences. This is only one lens for us to understand the experience.

The set of experiences associated with schizophrenia can include confused thinking; a false belief held by the person (not generally held by others). The person may see, hear, feel, smell or taste something that is not actually there. For many people these experiences cause distress and can impact on how a person manages their day to day life. These experiences may not be constant, and some days may be more difficult than others.

A person with mental ill health may not know that their thinking and ideas are different, and this can be very challenging for families and loved ones to suggest the person seeks help.

Just as experiences of Schizophrenia are unique, so is the pathway to recovery.

MIFWA is experienced in supporting people to recover. It is always a privilege to witness the personal resilience and depth of the human spirit that drives people toward their personal recovery. For some, therapy and medication play a role, although there remains challenges around the side effects and duration of medication and understanding the best path to recovery.

The biggest impact on recovery, we see, is when people understand the experience they have had (framed by their perspective of making sense of what has happened) and finding ways to understand and manage symptoms. This is where peer support can be really helpful.

Deeper personal recovery occurs through getting back to ordinary daily experiences like being active, social connection, contributing to community and having meaningful ways to spend your time.

If you think you (or someone you know) is experiencing mental ill health, reach out and talk with us about how we can help you find support.

‘People are just people, they are not their diagnosis. While at times mental ill health can be extremely distressing, it should never be made harder because the rest of us are too ill informed to see and support a person. No-one should be left behind. We all have the power to reach out and make a difference. Every person is unique and their experiences are different. Mental distress impacts all our lives at some point, either directly or through those we love. We won’t achieve our potential as a community, until we accept and embrace the breadth of experiences that make up what it is to be human. Mental ill health, including this set of experiences characterised as ‘schizophrenia’, is part of the human experience. Let’s work to understand it, and support ourselves and others to move beyond it.’ Monique Williamson CEO MIFWA


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