Myths spring up about everything that is misunderstood – and mental illness is one of the most misunderstood things out there. People are equal parts fascinated by and terrified of it, seemingly at the same time. In this episode, our hosts take a look at some myths about living with schizophrenia and even tackle the most common one – are schizophrenics violent?
“People with schizophrenia are more likely to be victims of violence than to cause violence.”
Highlights from ‘Myths of Mental Illness’ Episode
[2:00] What are some myths about schizophrenia?
[4:00] Does schizophrenia have anything to do with split personalities?
[5:30] Mental illness and violence.
[7:00] Are schizophrenics ruining society?
[17:00] What is it like to live with schizophrenia?
[20:00] What can we do instead of blaming mentally ill people?
Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Persistent Myths of Mental Illness’ Show
Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Announcer: For reasons that utterly escape everyone involved, you’re listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. Here are your hosts, Gabe Howard and Michelle Hammer.
Gabe: Hello, everyone, and welcome to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. My name is Gabe and I am the bipolar on the show.
Michelle: Hi, I am Michelle and I guess I’m the schizophrenic on the show as Gabe introduced himself as the bipolar. I mean process of elimination. Right, Gabe?
Gabe: No, you could be the podcast.
Michelle: Stop. That’s not funny.
Gabe: That could be like so meta. And it would show the stigma because everybody looks at you and they assume look if you’re not bipolar, then you must be the schizophrenic. But maybe you identify as a podcast?
Michelle: Yeah, you’re right. You’re right. I identify as many things Gabe.
Gabe: As many things? As many things?
Michelle: Many things.
Gabe: What do you identify with the most? Don’t say New Yorker.
Gabe: Really? Of all the things about you, you feel that being a woman is the most biggest? “Most biggest?” Is that a word?
Michelle: Well if I was a man, my shower would have gotten unclogged a month ago.
Gabe: Now is that a euphemism or an analogy? Or are we literally talking about a clogged shower?
Michelle: A literal clogged shower, is all I have to say about that.
Gabe: I’m going to disagree with you. If you were a man, the shower never would have been clogged. You leave hair everywhere. Whenever we travel, I can find you just by following your hair trail.
Michelle: You wish you had my hair. Jealous, Ginger-head?
Gabe: Michelle, today we want to talk about misconceptions, stereotypes, and myths surrounding schizophrenia and as per the way our show works, we’re going to do it stupid.
Michelle: Ok. Let’s get stupid.
Gabe: All of these beliefs, they have to come from somewhere. And I firmly believe that all across America right now, these conversations are taking place.
Michelle: I’m sure they are.
Gabe: Are you ready?
Gabe: Are you ready?
Michelle: I am as ready as I’ll ever be. Gabe, I’m ready. Let’s go right now. I’m so ready.
Gabe: Ok, so the reason that I believe these conversations are taking place exactly like we’re about to about to sarcastically pretend is because you know people say that we need to raise awareness about mental illness we need to raise awareness about schizophrenia. But I think that’s incorrect. I mean, do you honestly know anybody who’s not aware of mental illness? I mean sincerely, like do you ever say, “I’m schizophrenic.” And somebody goes, “Oh my God. What is that?”
Michelle: I mean they’ve heard of it. They just know nothing about it. They’ve just seen it in a movie or something.
Michelle: Oh yes, I saw that movie Sybil. Yes. That movie, Sybil.
Gabe: Exactly. So they are aware of it. And even though they’re aware of it, nobody bothers to take the next step of educating themselves about it or or becoming. I don’t know. Not dumb. Let’s go with not dumb.
Michelle: Not dumb.
Gabe: So, even though they’ve heard of it they still remain ignorant to what it is. They just walk around believing that they understand it because they’ve heard the word.
Michelle: Exactly. You know.
Gabe: Which leads me to believe that this conversation happens in households all across America. Michelle, are you ready?
Michelle: I’m ready. Let’s do it.
Gabe: Ok for the purposes of the next however many minutes Michelle is going to be the schizophrenic and Gabe is going to be Joe America. Just a regular good person living in America. Michelle, oh my God! Schizophrenics all have split personalities. Did you know that they are like a million, there’s like a hundred people living in a schizophrenic’s head.
Michelle: Ok here it is, Joe America, schizophrenia has nothing to do with multiple personalities. A split personality is called D.I.D. Dissociative Identity Disorder, and it’s nothing like schizophrenia. They’re totally not alike.
Gabe: Now now now that doesn’t. That doesn’t sound right. I reject your facts and I’m going to hold on to my deep beliefs that that schizophrenics have like multiple people living in their heads. Because I saw a movie once and everything in cinema is true. Did you know that dinosaurs were brought back and they live on an island? True story completely true. Saw it in a movie.
Michelle: That is completely false. You cannot believe what you’ve seen in the movies, Joe America.
Gabe: That makes absolutely no sense to me. Did you know that there was this alien guy that got a hold of a bunch of crystals and he put them on a glove? And thank God for the Avengers. The Avengers saved our collective asses if it wasn’t for them. But OK now. Hang on, hang on. Did you know that all of the violence in America is caused by people with schizophrenia? Like seriously, all violence schizophrenics. It’s a fact, it’s a complete fact.
Michelle: Actually, Gabe, the truth about schizophrenics is that they’re more likely to be victims of violence than to actually commit a violent crime.
Gabe: No no no no. The news, now I understand you saying that maybe I can’t go to the movie theater and get my fact. But the news that CNN and Fox News, this is the one thing that all the news agrees on. All mass shooters are mentally ill and have schizophrenia. They all agree.
Michelle: Now the news uses buzz words like mental illness, mental health, mental wellness in journalism. They just cause a lot of stigma and schizophrenia patients have to deal with it you know if it bleeds it leads in this. It’s used in reporting tactics employed by the media to boost.
Gabe: Wait a minute. No, no, no, no, just a. I understand that you’re getting flustered because you don’t like it when I’m right and you’re wrong. But you have to admit, just just dig deep and just be honest with me, Michelle. The world would be better if all schizophrenics were dead.
Michelle: No I don’t see why that would make any sense.
Gabe: Because all the problems are caused by people with mental illness, especially especially people with schizophrenia. I mean seriously just, just admit that. And then I can, I can go on.
Michelle: All the problems are not caused by people with schizophrenia. I don’t see how that makes any sense at all. I don’t.
Gabe: All right, Michelle, just come on. I know that we’re talking and I know that you’re trying to be all you know professional on the show and all, but be honest I mean just don’t you think that the world would be better if all people with schizophrenia were gone? I mean they’re responsible for all of the problems in our society just just oh no it just, just be honest.
Michelle: I think what’s responsible for all the problems in society would be people like you talking to people like me who are trying to make a difference in the world. But yet there’s people like you thinking you’re better than other people and that you’re smarter than other people and that you think you know more than other people when really you’re just a huge dumb ass.
Gabe: Now that that’s that’s that’s something that a schizophrenic would say.
Michelle: No, anyone would say that.
Gabe: I am going to completely ignore everything that you said because of a diagnosis. And that makes me reasonable and you unreasonable.
Michelle: No that makes you a complete idiot and ignorant and that means you gotta go home.
Gabe: Because I need to hide there because of people with schizophrenia? Right?
Michelle: If you need to hide there because people with schizophrenia, stay in your home and don’t talk to anyone for the rest of your life, you’re probably too big an imbecile.
Gabe: Ok. Now, but just, just, just, just look, I can see that you’re getting upset. You know you’re getting hysterical and I just I just need you to calm down. I just I don’t want you to overreact. As somebody who does not have a mental illness, I am always right. I have the right to talk down to you and be condescending. You can at least agree that is a good policy for political discourse and for getting along with your friends and neighbors. I don’t have to change my mind. You have to change your behavior. Can we at least agree on that?
Michelle: No because I think people who are really big dumb asses should actually be in the DSM. And if you’re just continuing to be a dumb ass and thinking that you’re better than me because you don’t have a mental illness really means you’re less intelligent than I am because just because I have schizophrenia doesn’t mean that I’m not intelligent. There’s people with schizophrenia with a Ph.D., an M.D. everything like that. And did you graduate from high school, sir?
Gabe: Actually I did graduate from high school, barely. But that doesn’t matter because I don’t have a mental illness. I don’t have to prove anything. It is just established.
Michelle: How do you know? How do you know?
Gabe: That I’m Ok.
Michelle: But how do you know you don’t have mental illness? Because with the way you’re talking to me, I think you’re batshit crazy.
Gabe: Now now now now I know that I don’t have mental illness because my mom loves me and because I’m not in a corner drooling like all schizophrenics.
Michelle: No see that’s another myth. People used to think that it would be the parents who are raising the children would cause the schizophrenia. But really there’s genetics and there’s environmental factors. I think you just need to get slapped in the face because you’re a dumb ass. Hold up one sec. Let’s hear from our sponsor.
Announcer: This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp.com. Secure, convenient, and affordable online counselling. All counselors are licensed, accredited professionals. Anything you share is confidential. Schedule secure video or phone sessions, plus chat and text with your therapist, whenever you feel it’s needed. A month of online therapy often costs less than a single traditional face to face session. Go to BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counselling is right for you. BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral.
Michelle: We’re back talking about dumb asses.
Gabe: The next thing that you’re going to say is that schizophrenia is a medical illness that involves medical treatment and that people with schizophrenia can lead quality productive lives. And clearly that’s batshit crazy. I mean, name one person with schizophrenia doing well now. I mean I don’t know I can find all kinds of things that you do wrong because again as somebody who doesn’t have mental illness it is my sworn duty to look down on people with mental illness and comment on their life like I’m an expert.
Michelle: That’s called a troll.
Gabe: No no no no. A troll is different. A troll is somebody that’s mean for no reason. I’m mean for your own good.
Michelle: No you’re mean because you have nothing better to do than to just piss people off because of your own bigoted opinion.
Gabe: Listen, name somebody with schizophrenia who has graduated college.
Gabe: Well OK. But name somebody with schizophrenia who has owned their own business.
Gabe: No no no. Name somebody with schizophrenia who has achieved on a national stage and is recognized all across America for their contributions to society.
Gabe: No, name somebody with schizophrenia who loves their parents and has a mom and dad who are still married.
Gabe: Name somebody with schizophrenia who hasn’t set fire to their apartment.
Michelle: Me. I did not set the fire. There was a spark.
Gabe: Well but you were involved, so it was probably your fault. Isn’t that fascinating though? OK. Scene. All right. We’ve accomplished that. Isn’t that like the dumbest conversation ever?
Michelle: That was then. Yes. Yes.
Gabe: But that’s, that is how far people go to believe this bullshit. And that’s what it is. Living with mental illness especially living with schizophrenia is a very nuanced discussion because as you’ve pointed out on this show before Michelle you haven’t been this well your entire life. There was a period of time where you were sick and hospitalized. So you understand that that living with schizophrenia it involves all kinds of things. But the biggest thing that you want people to understand is that the majority of these myths are nonsense. And anybody listening to our conversation would think to themselves what is wrong with that guy.
Gabe: He must be a dumbass.
Michelle: Yes. You were acting like a dumb ass. So I told you you were a dumb ass.
Gabe: Isn’t it interesting though that if you actually did call somebody a dumb ass for the things that I said people would think that you were being hostile. You were the aggressor.
Michelle: Yeah yeah totally totally. Yeah.
Gabe: Our society does this great thing where the minority party has to prove that they’re not a minority whereas the majority belief just has to exist and everything is fine.
Michelle: Good point. That’s really interesting. Yeah exactly like everybody who has a parade for their own ethnicity or Ellen thing people are like why do they need a parade there. Because there are a minority. How come the white man doesn’t get its own parade. I’m like that’s called the sidewalk.
Gabe: And that really is the point isn’t it. We don’t have to go around explaining what it’s like to be mentally healthy because everybody understands what it’s like to be mentally healthy including including people with mental illness people with mental illness bipolar disorder schizophrenia major depression anxiety. We all understand what it’s like to be mentally healthy and we understand what it’s like to be mentally unhealthy mentally ill but people who are mentally healthy they don’t understand what it’s like to be mentally ill. But instead of them gaining information to understand us we’re expected to behave in a way that makes them comfortable.
Michelle: Why? Why do we have to make them comfortable?
Gabe: But because they’re uncomfortable.
Michelle: That’s not my problem. That’s their problem. Get used to me.
Gabe: No no they don’t have to.
Michelle: Fuck them.
Gabe: This is our problem.
Michelle: Fuck them. Fuck them fuck them.
Gabe: And you know why they believe this because they’re the majority. They’re their own echo chamber. So when they think Oh my God I am so uncomfortable by Michelle’s behavior living with schizophrenia they go to somebody else who is also mentally healthy and they tell them this story and that person also becomes uncomfortable. They’re like Oh my God. Michelle Hammer behaved that way because of schizophrenia. That’s that’s so uncomfortable. That’s what I thought. And then now two people believe that you are wrong and then they go find a third person who is mentally healthy and they tell the story and that person becomes uncomfortable. And before you know it they’ve surrounded themselves with this group of mentally healthy people who are all discussing what it’s like to live with schizophrenia completely from the perspective of somebody who is well. They don’t ask you though. You know why they don’t ask you? Because you’re different. And we don’t like people who are different. And people who are different, must be wrong.
Michelle: People are dumb. People are just not OK. That’s absolutely ridiculous. But you know in that group of people you know that they’re somehow connected to mental illness in some way. One in five people. There’s a group of 10 people there, think about it. That means somebody there is lying. Somebody that is covering up somebody they’re scared to be honest about themselves and that group of people and you know it.
Gabe: And that makes it even worse because now they’re on notice that they can’t come out. They can’t be honest. And listen one in five people don’t have schizophrenia bipolar disorder major depression one in five people have a mental health crisis and a mental health crisis can be a lot of different things it could be a panic attack it could be grief it could be a short period of depression it doesn’t have to be you know full blown schizophrenia which is its own section on the mental health spectrum just like bipolar disorder and bipolar disorder with psychosis and schizo affective and you know I’m not trying to play the suffering Olympics and say which one is worse but everybody has mental health which means everybody could have a mental health crisis. So to your point, Michelle, all 10 of them are at risk to be mentally unwell
Michelle: Exactly. Yes.
Gabe: Even though all 10 of them are talking about it like the schizophrenic is the crazy one and they’re out.
Gabe: They don’t have to talk about that at all.
Gabe: Which means when they get sick, or a loved one gets sick, they will know exactly.
Gabe: On how to save themselves or the somebody they care about.
Michelle: Or if they have anyone to talk to.
Gabe: Michelle, is schizophrenia contagious?
Michelle: No. No.
Gabe: Now I’m legitimately worried about catching schizophrenia. I have heard of it but I don’t know anything about it. And I know that you do because you live with it. Can you explain why schizophrenia is not contagious and reassure me please?
Michelle: How could it possibly be contagious? It is internal it is in your in your brain. You can’t catch a brain disease. How is that possible?
Gabe: Well I guess I just don’t know what schizophrenia is.
Gabe: And I’m asking you because I trust you because I know that you live with it. And I’m impressed that you live well. Can you explain it to me?
Michelle: Schizophrenia is just like living in two different worlds at the same time. You walk down the street and you know there’s a street you know where you’re going but you are living in another world at the same time talking to different people having a different conversation. And sometimes your conversations turn into delusions and they get mixed up with different delusions that you don’t know what’s real all the time. So you have to try to focus on what actual reality is and what makes sense in the world and how could somebody catch that from you? I don’t know.
Gabe: Well but then it has to do with bad parenting, right? I mean did your parents give you schizophrenia? Is your mom a bad person who beat you and your dad an alcoholic? I think that’s where schizophrenia comes from and I want to ask you to address that for me.
Michelle: Now it definitely didn’t come from my parents at all. I don’t really know. I think it was genetic. I don’t know. I’ve had confessions. I don’t know where it came from.
Gabe: So it’s just it’s just bad luck. I mean it’s just bad luck.
Michelle: Yeah I think bad luck. Bad luck.
Michelle: Mm hmm.
Gabe: Life so it’s like baldness. Genetically it could have come from your family tree or even your parents but it’s nothing that they did wrong. It’s not indicative that they’re bad parents. You were just born with a disease. And actually, your parents helped you address it a lot, right?
Gabe: Weren’t they some of the first people to take care of you? Get you to doctors and get you the care that you needed?
Gabe: So you’re saying that you have schizophrenia and good parents? You know another thing that I heard that I’d really like you to address is that people with schizophrenia are responsible for the violence. Now you’ve said that that they’re not. But if people with mental illness and schizophrenia aren’t responsible for the violence, then who is?
Michelle: People with misplaced anger. Some people are angry for things and they don’t know how to cope with those issues and they take it out on the wrong people. And I don’t know why they’re doing that. All studies show violence is random.
Gabe: But I think that I’d feel better if I knew that only schizophrenics were responsible for violence.
Michelle: Well then what would you do? Get rid of everyone like that?
Gabe: I guess that’s a good point. Do you think that maybe the reason that I want to believe that all schizophrenics are responsible for violence is because all I would have to do to avoid violence is avoid schizophrenics? And that would that would make my life easy I guess.
Gabe: But, you’re right, it’s not true.
Michelle: That doesn’t make any sense. That’s like all Jews caused all the horrible things in Germany. Stick them in a bunch of concentration camps, and Germany is gonna be better than it’s ever been.
Gabe: Wow. I think that that’s something that only a person living with Judaism can say. Did I use person first language correctly there for your religion and race?
Michelle: Sure sure. I’ll let you have that one, Gabe. I mean you tell it. You’re saying get rid of the schizophrenics in the same way that you know Hitler and the Jews if you want to keep talking about that one. But.
Gabe: I don’t. I don’t. I don’t. I don’t want to be Hitler you know I don’t I don’t mean to say it that way but you’re right thinking that an entire group of people is responsible for all of something. Then I guess that’s not a far jump to then we need to get rid of that group of people. And I imagine that that group of people would probably feel really shitty about being alive and probably wouldn’t get the care that they need. Is that where you’re going with this?
Michelle: Ok. Here’s a better idea. Why don’t we give medical care to that group of people and then rehabilitate them so they’re not dangerous?
Gabe: So you’re saying that on one hand the media the government and society says that people with mental illness are responsible for all of the violence but then they put no money time effort or resources into it. So it’s almost like they’re just using it as an excuse because people with schizophrenia are not more violent than the rest of the population? So you’re saying that people with schizophrenia or mental illness, we’re all being used as scapegoats? And the problem actually lies elsewhere?
Michelle: You have hit the nail on the head.
Gabe: Michelle, that’s just straight up crazy talk. I’m going to crawl back under my rock. Believe all the ignorant bullshit that I started with and then I’m out.
Michelle: Out. All right, Gabe. I’ll tell you what. Attention all politicians and society at large. If you all fully fund the mental health safety net and give us all the care and resources we need to live a full and complete life, you can say whatever the fuck you want about me and my people. But until then shut the fuck up. Fucking idiots, fucking idiots.
Gabe: You know Michelle
Gabe: You’re absolutely right. It’s just nothing short of hypocrisy the fact that we are blamed for all of this but we are given no resources to help us. I can’t agree more. And if there are any politicians out there that finally want to step up to the plate admit that they are wrong admit that we’re not responsible for violence and work with us so that we can help people with mental illness live better lives. You can find us at [email protected] You can also use that email address to send in suggestions for topics and questions. You can go to PsychCentral.com/BSP. Click on the little chalkboard and upload your questions straight to us. In the meantime wherever there are stars to click on for our show you should click all of them comment on it shares on social media do whatever it takes to make Michelle Hammer and Gabe Howard famous. We will see everybody next week.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. If you love this episode, don’t keep it to yourself head over to iTunes or your preferred podcast app to subscribe, rate, and review. To work with Gabe, go to GabeHoward.com. To work with Michelle, go to Schizophrenic.NYC. For free mental health resources and online support groups, head over to PsychCentral.com. This show’s official web site is PsychCentral.com/BSP. You can e-mail us at [email protected] Thank you for listening, and share widely.
Meet Your Bipolar and Schizophrenic Hosts
GABE HOWARD was formally diagnosed with bipolar and anxiety disorders after being committed to a psychiatric hospital in 2003. Now in recovery, Gabe is a prominent mental health activist and host of the award-winning Psych Central Show podcast. He is also an award-winning writer and speaker, traveling nationally to share the humorous, yet educational, story of his bipolar life. To work with Gabe, visit gabehoward.com.
MICHELLE HAMMER was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 22, but incorrectly diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18. Michelle is an award-winning mental health advocate who has been featured in press all over the world. In May 2015, Michelle founded the company Schizophrenic.NYC, a mental health clothing line, with the mission of reducing stigma by starting conversations about mental health. She is a firm believer that confidence can get you anywhere. To work with Michelle, visit Schizophrenic.NYC.