There is a huge gap in how people with schizophrenia are expected to recover and then integrate back into society. Many of us are in active treatment and managing symptoms. Now what? How do we function in life? How do we fit into society? We all want friends, to have a purpose, to belong.

These desires fall under community involvement. Integration into the community is recognized as an important component of recovery for those with severe mental illness. It is also one of our biggest challenges.

Hosts Rachel Star Withers and Gabe Howard explore different programs all over the world that work to assist people with schizophrenia to integrate into their local communities.

Faydra Aldridge, CEO of the British Columbia Schizophrenia Society and host of their podcast, “Look Again: Mental Illness Re-Examined,” joins and shares the programs and goals of the BCSS.

Faydra Aldridge

Faydra Aldridge’s career has spanned over twenty years in the fields of communications, stakeholder relations, and project management in both the private and public sectors. Before joining the BC Schizophrenia Society (BCSS) as the Chief Executive Officer in 2019, Faydra held a leadership role with one of the largest health research institutes in Canada where she oversaw the Stakeholder Relations portfolio. She has experience as a CBC Morning Show Producer and has held executive positions with national and international community health organizations. Faydra draws on this experience in her role as a host of the BCSS podcast “Look Again: Mental Illness Re-Examined.” She is honored to work with such a dedicated team devoted to increasing awareness about serious mental illness and supporting families across BC.

About the Podcast:

Navigating and understanding serious mental illnesses can be complex — both for individuals living with the illness as well as their loved ones and community. Hearing firsthand stories can bring comfort in knowing we aren’t alone.

“Look Again: Mental Illness Re-Examined” is a resource to help expand your understanding of the many dimensions of mental illness — and you can go listen to the latest season right now!

This show covers it all. It dives deep into the ‘big questions’ that families can face during different stages of the mental illness journey, from recognizing initial symptoms to the pursuit of a diagnosis and the search for effective treatment. It shares personal stories from individuals living ‘close’ to schizophrenia or other serious mental illnesses, as well as insights from experienced researchers and medical professionals across the globe.

Recent episodes explore topics like social media’s influence on mental illness stigma, first-episode psychosis intervention, using virtual reality to treat psychosis, the untold challenges of mental illness care, and tons more!

Learn more about serious mental illness – check out “Look Again: Mental Illness Re-Examined,” an original podcast from the BC Schizophrenia Society, available on your favorite podcast app.

Rachel Star Withers

Rachel Star Withers creates videos documenting her schizophrenia, ways to manage and let others like her know they are not alone and can still live an amazing life. She has written Lil Broken Star: Understanding Schizophrenia for Kids and a tool for schizophrenics, To See in the Dark: Hallucination and Delusion Journal. Fun Fact: She has wrestled alligators.

To learn more about Rachel, please visit her website, RachelStarLive.comm.

Gabe Howard

Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, “Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations,” available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author.

Gabe makes his home in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio. He lives with his supportive wife, Kendall, and a Miniature Schnauzer dog that he never wanted, but now can’t imagine life without. To learn more about Gabe, please visit his website,

Producer’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Announcer: You’re listening to Inside Schizophrenia. Hosted by Rachel Star Withers, an advocate who lives openly with Schizophrenia. We’re talking to experts about all aspects of life with this condition. Welcome to the show!

Rachel Star Withers: Welcome to Inside Schizophrenia, a Healthline Media podcast. I’m your host, Rachel Star Withers here with my amazing co-host Gabe Howard. Today we’re going to take an in-depth look at community involvement in the recovery of schizophrenia. There is a huge gap in how we people diagnosed with schizophrenia are expected to recover, get help, see a doctor, take medication, maybe a hospital stay, and then manage your symptoms and rebuild your new life. Like those first few things are specific, like, okay, I’m active in a treatment plan. I’m taking my medication and managing my symptoms. Now what? How? How do I function in life? How do I fit myself into society? I want friends, I want to have a purpose, I want to belong, and I don’t want people scared of me. I don’t want people thinking I’m weird. How does managing my schizophrenia fit into all of that? These desires all fall under community involvement. Integration into the community is recognized as an important component of recovery for those with severe mental illnesses. Also, one of our biggest challenges. Joining us today is Faydra Aldridge, who is the CEO of the British Columbia Schizophrenia Society and host of their podcast, Look Again: Mental Illness Re-Examined.

Gabe Howard: I’m always super fascinated at how we think that something is easy, but it’s actually very, very complicated. It seems like when we’re talking about community involvement and working with other people and managing our lives, we’re just like, hey, you’re cured. Go out and join the community, and then we stop.

Rachel Star Withers: With schizophrenia, that’s one of the big issues with dealing with the symptoms, is that you want to isolate yourself away from people, away from the community, away from your family, away from your friends. I that’s one of my biggest struggles. Uh, it’s to the point that my counselor, I actually have to log my social interactions every week and tell her about them. And I’m always like, oh, you’re going to be so proud. I went out to eat with my boxing class. Like the littlest things. I’m like, but that that’s how much of an issue it is. And I know so many people listening tend to think I’m very outgoing and I’m really not. I’m very much of an introvert. But you hear the podcast, which you tend to think, yeah, oh, Rachel’s really outgoing like Gabe is. Gabe has so many friends and he’s so cool. Like, who wouldn’t want to be Gabe’s friend?

Gabe Howard: Well, hey, you know, I got to be friends with the great Rachel Star. I mean, Star is right in your name. You’re a stuntwoman, you’re a YouTube channel. You’ve been on television shows, you’ve won awards. It’s easy to get this idea in our head that you’re this larger than life, very extroverted figure. Because whenever we see you, you are, by definition out. You are out in public. You are interacting with the rest of us. When you are doing introverted things, you’re not out in public and therefore we’re not thinking about you at all. And I think that’s super important for people to understand, because you’re judging your life by every moment of it, because we’re not separated from ourselves. But then we look to others and we’re like, oh, well, why can’t I be more like Gabe? Why can’t I be more like Rachel? Why can’t I be more like the guy at Burger King? But you don’t know what any of those people are doing when they’re not in your view.

Rachel Star Withers: So, when we’re talking about community involvement for schizophrenia, first we got to realize it’s two separate things. One is the actual like the social part of having a social network of human beings to go and talk to. And then that frequency, you know, just because you live in society doesn’t mean you’re actually out there interacting that often with people. And then the other part is the psychological feeling like you belong. Do I fit in this community? You can be surrounded by people and still feel alone. That’s not a mental disorder issue. That that’s a common theme throughout humanity is feeling like you’re around people, but you’re also alone, like you don’t fit in or you don’t belong with the groups around you.

Gabe Howard: If you can’t find your tribe, it’s easy to be very isolated. And there’s this phrase alone in a crowded room that that applies to many, many people. And people with schizophrenia are no different. Just because there’s lots and lots of people around doesn’t mean that you’ve found your tribe, found where you fit in and found the people or the situations that give you joy. And I think it’s really important for people to understand that, because so often than not, we’re just like, well, you have schizophrenia? Well go out and make friends. But the reality is, is that it’s difficult to make friends. It’s difficult for everybody. And somebody with schizophrenia is carrying an extra load, an extra burden.

Rachel Star Withers: Analysis that they’ve done on people with schizophrenia has shown that as far as community integration in real life, there are a few factors that help with it. One is having a higher personal income. Lower depressive symptoms, lower positive symptoms, lower abnormal involuntary movement scale scores, and greater control over one’s life. So, to put this in not very correct terms, the more normal you are, um, the better off your chances are. And that’s not exactly that. That’s not exactly an uplifting thing for someone with schizophrenia. Like, okay, just the more you’re like everybody else, the more likely you stand at making friends.

Gabe Howard: So, if you have less of a problem, it’s easier to resolve that.

Rachel Star Withers: Yes.

Gabe Howard: That seems to be the outcome of this particular study.

Rachel Star Withers: Mm-hmm.

Gabe Howard: Well, wonderful. Wonderful. How does that apply to people living with schizophrenia, Rachel?

Rachel Star Withers: Well, I mean, just that applies to like. Anything. If you think about like bullying in school. You know, like you don’t. If you’re the weird kid, good luck. You know, try and be less weird like that. That’s usually the advice. Like, don’t be so weird. But it’s frustrating because when we’re talking about something like symptoms, okay? And you’re managing symptoms, how in the world do you stop those symptoms from manifesting in public? And a lot of the times you can’t. On that list, the thing that popped out to me that was most interesting was the lower abnormal involuntary movement scale score. And what that is referring to is tardive dyskinesia. We’ve had an entire episode on it, spoked on it before, but that’s involuntary movements as a result of antipsychotic medications many times. And this could be trembling, shaking, jerking movements and even like tongue movements. Tongue movements for me is the main one that is noticeable. Um, I’ll be at the gym and I’ll suddenly look in the mirror and realize my tongue is hanging out of my mouth and you’re like, how did you not notice that, Rachel? I don’t know, I’ve just gotten so used to it is my answer. Um, and I’ll be like, oh crap, I hope no one thought I was, I don’t know, badly flirting with them or something. Like I do worry. Like what was my face? What kind of expressions was I accidentally making that I wasn’t even aware of?

Gabe Howard: I can see where this would be a real concern for people with schizophrenia. Essentially, your outside doesn’t match your inside, but this, again, is a huge burden for somebody with schizophrenia, especially with the uncontrolled motions, because they’re uncontrollable. It’s right. It’s right there in the name, Rachel. So, there’s really no advice that we can give people to manage uncontrollable motion, except that perhaps to explain that you have uncontrollable motions of people, which, again, is going to make you just super popular in social circles. Hi everybody. Here’s my manual. Here is everything that I’m doing, why I’m reacting this way and what all of my facial expressions mean. Can we be friends? How does somebody with schizophrenia manage all of this so that they can build their community, they can find their tribe and they can get along with their friends and neighbor? Which is something that all of us humans want.

Rachel Star Withers: What suggested for people with schizophrenia and also service providers who are helping this population is social skills, is to actually work on these things before you get into the situation. Take that what you’ve learned. Go home, practice it for next time. So, with me, yeah, the snake tongue thing happens a lot. I’m now I’m pretty used to it, but actually practice. Okay. If this happens in real life when I’m out and about, what am I going to do? How am I going to respond? You know, if I see someone looking at me odd kind of weigh out the decisions and talk to your family, friends be like, if someone is doing this, what do you think is the best response? Ask other people.

Gabe Howard: Rachel, let me ask you, though, when somebody does walk up to you and ask you if you are okay, does that embarrass you? Does it bother you? Does it worry you? I think that some people listening would think, well, a stranger asking you if you’re okay, or even a well-meaning loved one, or family member constantly asking their loved one if they’re okay can present its own social challenges.

Rachel Star Withers: It’s different if it’s a stranger versus a loved one, a family member. A family member loved one is aware that you have a problem, uh, that you have schizophrenia and you are working to manage the symptoms, whereas a stranger ideally has no clue. You’re just some random person who might be in need of help.

Gabe Howard: Rachel, obviously under strangers are also going to be like law enforcement, for example. And I know that there’s community involvement programs that are that are head up by society members, law enforcement, just all kinds of groups. What advice do you have for integrating yourself in there?

Rachel Star Withers: Anytime we’re bringing in the legal system, police, that is a whole new set of challenges. Studies have shown that police play a very pivotal role when it comes to access to the mental health care systems. Many times, police first responders are the first mental health care related workers that someone with schizophrenia might come in contact with. That’s one of the issues that we’re always pushing on here about getting help and getting early. Speak to a doctor when you notice symptoms. Sadly, a lot of times we don’t reach out for help until we’re in crisis, and maybe that help is forced upon us by other people. You want to reach out and get help for yourself whenever you start to notice that you’re having symptoms. Now these reactions, it’s good on one side, Gabe, because when society becomes involved, that’s when we start to have government response and people wanting to make programs. But if it’s always police getting involved, it’s usually because somebody feels threatened. Society feels threatened. And that’ll be a reaction is, oh no, we need to get all these homeless off the streets. Oh no, all of these mentally ill people have nowhere to go, usually being the fear that they’ll come into my house, that they’ll attack me. And that tends to shape a lot of the programs that we have access to. It is a good and bad thing. Um, because it’s like, yes, now we have this program. Bad that something had to happen for it to be creative. And unfortunately, that’s something usually is rooted in fear.

Gabe Howard: Ah, stigma rears its ugly head again. But as we know, and as you alluded to earlier, stigma does not press upon all people equally. Where you live, your race, your gender, socioeconomic status, things like that really change how big of a factor stigma is.

Rachel Star Withers: I’m about to tell you some amazing programs and understand, Gabe, all of these programs, there’s good and bad. High income countries, some of the community based interventional programs include case management, intensive case management, crisis intervention, assertive community treatments. All of those are great. All of those are amazing. But did you notice it’s kind of aggressive wording? Intensive case management, crisis intervention, assertive community treatments. Just reading the titles. I feel that there was definitely some fear involved that got those programs in place. Lower to middle income countries tend to have community-based programs like community-based rehabilitation, collaborative community-based care intervention. All of these programs are great and help people, but there’s definitely a different vibe going on.

Gabe Howard: It does, it does. One sounds very friendly and one sounds kind of like, uh oh.

Rachel Star Withers: Assertive community treatment, which is incredible if you have access to this in your area. It is a team directed program that helps people with severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia. And the goal is to help you get stable housing and help you integrate into the community and rely less on the hospital and to ease your family’s burden by making you more independent. I definitely feel like we’re having to step in here and help you. And we need to help your family. We need to help everyone that you’re such a burden on.

Gabe Howard: It does. It really.

Rachel Star Withers: I don’t feel like I’m being integrated into the community. I feel like I’m being forced in because, oh God, we have to include her.

Gabe Howard: Or that you’re being handled.

Rachel Star Withers: Yes.

Gabe Howard: It sort of feels like you’re being handled like, here’s this problem and we’ve got to figure out how to handle it.

Rachel Star Withers: With the assertive community treatment this is pretty expensive to set up. Uh it’s a lot more detailed. You’re going to have to have a bigger funding for that. Something like a collaborative community-based care intervention tends to be more structured psychoeducational information, medication adherence management, health promotion and specific rehabilitation needs, and then linking with different self-help groups and networks and community agencies. Much more cost effective, it tends to be more of something for low income to middle income countries and areas. A t the end of the day that that sounds wonderful too. But I do feel there’s less specific schizophrenia management help because sometimes, yes, you do need a medical person stepping in and helping you with medication counseling. So, I understand both of these are good. But it’s also going to be what’s available in your area.

Gabe Howard: You obviously did a lot of research for this show. How wide did you go? Did you go all over the United States? Did you go worldwide?

Rachel Star Withers: All across the world. So much of this is falling on everyday citizens. So, people are finding different programs. They’re starting different programs. You have different health organizations that are doing pilot programs. Hey, let’s see if this works. Let’s see if that works. You have different countries that are stepping up and being like, hey, we have a major issue. One of them is China’s 686 Program, which they were like, hey, we’re having a major issue here with people with severe mental disorders like schizophrenia not being able to get help. So they developed a program where they would take the services and move them from mental health care settings into the community, pretty much helping and trying to get health care out and more open to people. While they were doing this, another project actually became made, and that was called The Unlocking Project, because as they’re going out into these different rural communities and trying to bring medical help, they found a lot of people who were chained up, locked up by their family members. Some of the times for their own safety. But they didn’t know what to do. And it’s a devastating thing to hear. I know, I think everyone’s gut reaction, Gabe, when you hear about people being locked up, chained up is, oh my God, they’re just so cruel.

Rachel Star Withers: Also, I can see that if you’re in a very poor rural area and you’re trying to protect your loved one, what are my options but to maybe lock them in a room? But in doing the 686 Program, they were able to find all of these different people. And they started another outreach with the unlocking project of helping get those people the help they needed, including getting the families the help they needed. Some parts even organized new trainings for early psychosis and helping people identify in their community people who are struggling and what to do, and helping them with social skills, rehabilitation skills and training families on how they can help their loved ones. I love it because all of this, you know, it started with one program and then they just kept finding needs and they kept changing the program as it went to different areas, as it went to different communities, because, yes, some of the communities had different needs. And that’s how it is everywhere. Gabe, I think we want to look down on other countries, but here in America, we unfortunately we still have numerous things that pop up in the news about just all these horrible cases and studies that this still happens everywhere.

Gabe Howard: Rachel, I’m trying to wrap my head around this, and I know that I’m familiar with things like drop-in centers and clubhouse models. Can you explain what those are and how they work? As in, in some ways I think they’re I don’t know if they’re more common, but I can say they’re simpler to understand.

Rachel Star Withers: Yes. Drop-in centers, clubhouse models. Both of those are amazing. They’ve been used for many years all across the world. One of my favorite is the clubhouse model, and that tends to be a peer help facility. And what it is a non-clinical, integrated, therapeutic working communities. Usually you all work together, pay rent together, and it teaches you responsibility, it also lets you work on social interactions and being part of society in a safe environment, as opposed to just being thrown out on your own. Good luck. Get a job and hold it and pay your rent. A lot of times that’s harder. Most of us are familiar with halfway house. That would be along the same lines as the clubhouse model, would be like a halfway house for people coming out of prison or dealing with substance abuse disorders. All of these are great. I wish they were available everywhere. I know, Gabe, you have lots of experience with the w drop-in centers. I don’t. There are not any in my area. I’ve never been to one, but every time you’ve talked about it, I thought, God, that’s so cool. I feel like I would want to like, be dropping in there weekly. I’d want to like, volunteer. I’d want to help out.

Gabe Howard: I’m not surprised that there’s not a clubhouse or a drop-in center in your area as you live in a more rural area. Here is the downside of the clubhouse and drop in model. You need a lot of people who want to utilize the service who can walk to it. A lot of people who use clubhouse and drop in models, they need to be on a bus line. They need to be able to get there. It’s not a group of people that that has access easily to transportation. Now, again, that’s not one size fits all. I’m not saying that everybody who uses a drop-in center or a clubhouse doesn’t own a car. I’m just saying that when you’re trying to make it economically feasible to justify the rent, the employees, the activities, the free coffee, a lot of a lot of places have free coffee. You can’t just have 2 or 3 people dropping by in a day. Uh, that that’s just not the kind of thing that that you can sustain funding for. So, it’s much more common in big cities, and it’s much less common in less dense, less populated areas.

Sponsor Break

Gabe Howard: And we’re back discussing community involvement for people diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Rachel Star Withers: What I am very familiar with are homeless shelters, and a lot of those have kind of just day drop-in centers where I live. I wish it was a bigger model, you know, because having schizophrenia, I, I’m not homeless. So that’s not what I need. But there really isn’t a place I can go. Like you’re saying, there isn’t a place I can just drop in and just be around people. I can just go be around peers who have been in the same situations I have. I really wish that was an option for me because it’s like either you’re homeless or there’s also a lot of drug rehab programs, but that’s it. It’s like if you don’t fit those two things, and I think that’s the frustration for a lot of people with schizophrenia is that can we utilize those? And the answer is maybe. It depends on the area.

Gabe Howard: Obviously most of the burden to facilitate community involvement program falls on everyday people. It falls on nonprofits, volunteers, social, religious groups, and even if they can get government funding, I don’t know of anybody who’s ever said, oh my God, I’ve got government funding. I’m just rolling in cash. We’re doing more with less, more with less, more with less, more with less. So, these people are working really, really hard to help people with schizophrenia be involved in the community.

Rachel Star Withers: One of these amazing groups is the British Columbia Schizophrenia Society. Their podcast, Look Again: Mental Illness Re-Examined. A little bit about the BCSS’ podcast. Navigating and understanding serious mental illnesses can be complex, both for individuals living with the illness as well as their loved ones and community. Hearing first hand stories can bring comfort in knowing that we aren’t alone. Look Again: Mental Illness Re-Examined podcast is a resource to help expand your understanding of the many dimensions of mental illness. It dives deep into the big questions that families face during different stages of the mental illness journey, from recognizing initial symptoms to the pursuit of a diagnosis and the search for effective treatment. It shares personal stories from individuals living close to schizophrenia or other serious mental illnesses, as well as insights from experienced researchers and medical professionals across the globe. Recent episodes explore topics like social media’s influence on mental illness, stigma, first episode psychosis, intervention, using virtual reality to treat psychosis, the untold challenges of mental illness care, and tons more. I’m so excited today to be speaking with Faydra Aldridge, who is the CEO of the British Columbia Schizophrenia Society and the host of the Look Again: Mental Illness Re-Examined podcast. Thank you so much for joining us, Faydra.

Faydra Aldridge: Oh, Rachel, thanks for having us.

Rachel Star Withers: Well, first of all, help me out here. What exactly is the British Columbia Schizophrenia Society? That is a huge name. It sounds

Faydra Aldridge: Yes,

Rachel Star Withers: Very official.

Faydra Aldridge: Yes. The B.C. Schizophrenia Society, otherwise known as BCSS, is a long standing provincial nonprofit organization. And there’s a few things that make us unique. Number one, we are focused on schizophrenia and other severe and persistent mental illnesses, not mental health, illnesses. The second piece, we are focused on providing support for family members with a loved one with schizophrenia or another serious mental illness, and we’re across the entire province. So, we do have team members in those more rural and underserved areas.

Rachel Star Withers: Now the programs and the work that you do is that more towards family members or towards people with schizophrenia?

Faydra Aldridge: Good question. So many times, family members tend to get forgotten. Mental illnesses, as we all know, is extremely challenging, both for the individual that has been diagnosed with the illness, but also for those that love and care for that individual. So, the type of programs that BCSS offers is targeted for those family members or caregivers caring for the individual with the illness. And we do that through a multitude of ways. There’s family support groups. We have a program called Strengthening Families Together, which is a six-week program. We also offer one on one support. So a family is wondering, how do I manage? My loved one is changing. My son, my daughter, my partner is transforming, you know, and acting different than he or she ever has before. What do I do then? BCSS is there to help them along their mental illness journey within the medical system.

Rachel Star Withers: Why is it so important to educate the family members?

Faydra Aldridge: Oh, Rachel, education is so important. You know, schizophrenia, as we know, is one of those illnesses that still is surrounded by so many myths. And I truly think that the only way we’re ever going to make a difference is through education. And that’s educating at a societal level. And that’s why we have podcasts and conversations like this, is to do everything we can to talk about schizophrenia and to talk about mental illnesses that exist because of the many myths and the stigma that surrounds it.

Rachel Star Withers: What has been the response from family members who found your different programs and resources?

Faydra Aldridge: What we hear consistently from families is that it provides them a safe space to be able to talk about their situation. And of course, every situation is different. Every family is different, but it gives them that space to be able to talk about it, a safe space. It also provides hope. There’s many people that live with schizophrenia that are doing very well, and I think we need to we need to talk about the realness of the illness, but we also need to talk about the hope and those individuals that are doing well.

Rachel Star Withers: One of the resources that you offer is the Look Again: Mental Illness Re-Examined podcast. Talk to us about that.

Faydra Aldridge: Yes, we have our podcast. It was launched in 2021, and that is with support from BC partners. And the reason we started the podcast was because we realized that there was a gap. There was a gap when it came to podcast focusing on schizophrenia and other severe and persistent mental illnesses. So, we talked to researchers, we talk to medical experts, we talked to family members, and we talked to those individuals with the illness. And we hear about their individual journeys and the strength that they all display and the hardships that they faced. And it’s just been it’s been a huge learning curve for me. As one of the hosts of the podcasts in in Learning and Sharing Stories with people and the part that I love about the podcast is it connects us. It doesn’t matter if you’re in South Carolina, if you’re in British Columbia, it doesn’t matter where you are that schizophrenia does not discriminate. It unites us and it allows us to talk in a very real setting and shine the light on an illness that many of us don’t want to talk about. So, we have real conversations, we discuss the new research, and it just gives us a chance to talk and really talk. No topic is off limits. We talk about absolutely everything and some conversations are really hard. And based on new evidence, BCSS has adopted the figure that schizophrenia now affects 1.8% of the BC population, and psychotic disorders affect 3% of BC’s population. Those are high numbers. So, this illness is not rare. And I think that’s something that we really try and stress to. Number one, make sure that people are aware of those statistics. But number two, to make them feel that they’re not alone. And it wasn’t something that they did or didn’t do while their loved one has this illness. And I think the more we can talk about the prevalence rate and the illness itself, then we can focus on the implications of the illness, the economic implications, the social implications, what it means for housing and everything that surrounds the illness.

Rachel Star Withers: Do you have any personal connection with schizophrenia in your life?

Faydra Aldridge: I do have a personal connection, and it’s still a difficult one for me to talk about. I lost my sister to schizophrenia

Rachel Star Withers: I’m sorry.

Faydra Aldridge: In 2019. Um, yeah, it’s still a, it’s still a difficult one to talk to, and it is one that’s not easy. It’s one thing when you. And that’s why I chose to get into this. Work it. It helped guided me into choosing to get involved. I needed to understand. Yeah, it helped guided my decision to get into this line.

Rachel Star Withers: I’ve through this podcast Inside Schizophrenia, we’ve got to speak to numerous family members who similar situation. They found our podcast after the fact. What hope do you have for people like that who’ve lost someone to schizophrenia? And they’re just now trying to put the pieces together on what happened.

Faydra Aldridge: Schizophrenia is one of those illnesses where it’s not even after you’ve lost a loved one, it’s also navigating the system. And a very real piece to schizophrenia that’s not always talked about is anosognosia, which is another big word. Anosognosia means that the individual does not have insight into their illness, so if they do not have insight to their illness. Why would they seek treatment? Why would they get help? And, unfortunately, with many mental illnesses, it’s a journey and you go up and down and there’s good times and there’s not good times. It’s something that we need to talk about.

Rachel Star Withers: Mm-hmm.

Faydra Aldridge: They need us.

Rachel Star Withers: What are your plans going forward for your podcast, Look Again: Mental Illness Re-Examined. Where do you want this to go?

Faydra Aldridge: The podcast, it is for every single person that is listening to the podcast and needs us. And maybe they’re hesitant to reach out. Maybe they’re hesitant to ask for support. So hopefully our podcast is a safe space for them to feel the support around them and to give them the courage to be able to reach out and to be able to get information, even if they’re sitting in their car, sitting in their bathroom, listening to the podcast. But maybe it gives them an opportunity to ease into getting help if there is some hesitancy there. There’s lots of laughter on the podcast, but there’s also some real conversations that need to happen, and we need to continue having those conversations

Rachel Star Withers: And how can our listeners learn more about the British Columbia Schizophrenia Society and your podcast, Look Again: Mental Illness Re-Examined.

Faydra Aldridge: Yeah, Look Again: Mental Illness Re-Examined is everywhere. Apple, Spotify, wherever you listen to podcasts. And if you’d like any more information on BCSS, please go to our website.

Rachel Star Withers: Awesome. Thank you so much, Faydra.

Faydra Aldridge: Oh, Rachel, thanks so much for having me. And let’s not ever stop talking about this illness. Let’s keep talking about it and doing everything we can to increase awareness and to make the change that is so desperately needed.

Rachel Star Withers: Absolutely.

Gabe Howard: Rachel, as always, great job. I’m just curious, as someone who lives with schizophrenia, what’s your take on the British Columbia Schizophrenia Society?

Rachel Star Withers: It’s great. I just wish it was more universal. You know, there are tons of similar organizations out there, like for instance, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI, but all of these are grassroots efforts and they all start from concerned citizens. That’s the most frustrating thing because I have so many people, Gabe, and I know you do too. People with mental disorders, family members, caregivers who reach out to you over the internet and they want help. And they’re like, Rachel, what? What about my area? What do I do to get help? What are some of the programs? And my response is always the same, oh, it depends where you’re located. Because that that’s the answer. And I wish there was like this universal thing that I could be like, oh, bam, bam, bam, okay, this is the first thing you’re going to do. Then you’re going to enroll in this, and then you’re going to see if you qualify for this program. But that’s not how it works. I love that the British Columbia Schizophrenia Society, they’re making it very clear this is not just about Canada. They’re working to do this podcast so that people all over the world can get the knowledge

Gabe Howard: I really am sad. I’m sad that that the biggest names you mentioned NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and they do all mental illness. Right. That’s a that’s a really, really, really big goal. And so often this is discussed as all mental health, all mental illness. And we don’t have a lot of charities that that break away or a lot of groups that break away and focus on one thing. And just, there’s just not that many schizophrenia advocacy groups, and the vast, vast majority of them are not national. They’re very localized. So, I’d like to see people living with schizophrenia and their families have more of an opportunity to meet and address the unique needs and the unique challenges of your community, Rachel. And I’m really glad that it’s happening on some level.

Rachel Star Withers: Absolutely. Now, Gabe, let’s talk about how to get more involved in the community. First, let’s talk about making a change. And this is for anybody. Whether you’re a person with schizophrenia, a family, loved one’s caregivers, educators, students, medical professionals. What programs do you already have in your area? Look into those. Is there any way you can support them? Volunteer at them. Help get the word out. Something that’s incredibly important is just getting the word out. You may have a great program or a great group out there, but nobody knows about them. How can you help spread the word about them? A really good question to ask is how could I have learned about them sooner? Maybe Instagram, maybe just general signs, maybe going to a doctor’s office if they had had a brochure. Then look around. What programs or services are lacking in your area? Is there anything you can do to help that to assist them? And now for my people with schizophrenia, here’s the way I really like, actually integrating into the community.

Rachel Star Withers: This is going to be one of our biggest struggles with schizophrenia. As I told you about, my counselor makes me log my social interactions. That’s how bad I am at it. So, if you’re out there and you’re feeling alone and, Rachel, I don’t have any friends. I have such a hard time, you know, being around other people. You are not alone. Okay? This is a huge issue that so many of us are dealing with. Here’s my best advice. Join a club, group, gym, class, a sport, a religious organization, a community rec center. Find something that you are interested in and ideally it needs to have a physical component to it so that you’re not just sitting around talking. That tends to take the pressure off. Let’s say I join a rec soccer league where I can go and show off my soccer skills and be part of something. Support groups are great, but when we’re talking about just the general community, something with movement usually tends to help. Part time jobs. Volunteer. Also, find free events to attend meet and greets. If you’ve ever looked into it before, there is a website app called Eventbrite and it has different events in like your area you put in, you know where you’re located, and one came across mine the other week for a polar plunge.

Gabe Howard: You know, you’re listening to the Inside Schizophrenia podcast when Polar Plunge is one of the things that Rachel offers up.

Rachel Star Withers: Yes, it popped up. It was a free event to go to and I said, hey, this would be a good way for me to meet some new people outside of my normal network. And I go to this thing and if you don’t know, a polar plunge is you go swimming in January, outside. And then we also had to drip dry. You couldn’t just dry off the minute you got out. You had to drip dry. And you learned, you know, like being tough and cold and invigorating. Only 20 people showed up because only 20 people were crazy enough to do this. And I don’t mean crazy as in mental disorder. I mean crazy as in just generally crazy fitness people. We had a great time though. I got to meet all new people and it pulled me outside of my bubble. And lastly, work on your social skills. Ask for help from friends and family. Work on speaking and if you mess up, it’s not that big a deal. You just learn to try again. So what if you embarrassed yourself at the gym, or you’re embarrassed yourself at a club or you said the wrong thing? It’s okay. You can try again tomorrow. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Inside Schizophrenia. Please like, share, subscribe and rate our podcast and we’ll see you next time here on Inside Schizophrenia, a Healthline Media podcast.

Announcer: You’ve been listening to Inside Schizophrenia, a podcast from Psych Central and Healthline Media. Previous episodes can be found at or on your favorite podcast player. Your host, Rachel Star Withers, can be found online at Co-host Gabe Howard can be found online at Thank you and we’ll see you next time.