Students create documentary to showcase schizophrenia

"We are hoping to address those stereotypes and show people what it's like to have schizophrenia."
Tara Lux
Psychology student

Students create documentary to showcase schizophrenia

Paige Parsons, News Writer
Schizophrenia is the topic of a radio documentary being produced by three University of Alberta psychology students who want to create awareness about this disease, which affects one percent of all Canadians.

Tara Lux, Clare Patershut, and Andrea Yu created the documentary as a project for their PSYCO 409 class, which is a mandatory part of their honours psychology program. CJSP provided the equipment and recording time, but the students produced the documentary using their own questions and research.

They interviewed several people including a psychiatrist and a psychologist who have worked with people who have schizophrenia, two parents who have children diagnosed with the illness, and three individuals who suffer from the illness themselves.

All interview subjects had a high degree of interaction with schizophrenia, which is characterized by auditory hallucinations and delusions.

The documentary, which will cover the various stages of the disease, will also include information on the common misconceptions that society has about people suffering from the mental illness. Awareness of schizophrenia is especially important for university students, as the disease commonly manifests itself in an individual between the ages of 16-25.

Dr. Austin Mardon, an accomplished academic and author, and a sufferer of schizophrenia, was one of the people interviewed for the project. While recording the documentary, Mardon described how he felt during his early episodes of psychosis.

"I thought I was telepathic. I stayed up all night wandering around. I thought I could talk to God. Schizophrenia is similar to a very bad LSD trip," he said.

Despite the hardships caused by the disease, Mardon has dedicated much of his time and effort to being an advocate for people suffering from schizophrenia.

"This group of people, who are usually misunderstood, are not to be feared, but to be helped, just as you would help people with cancer," he added. Along with his aim to deconstruct the stigma surrounding the illness, Mardon believes that educating university-aged people about schizophrenia is important, as symptoms of the disease can begin to appear in their age range and early treatment is key.

"The medications can be quite effective. You might have to adjust your life a little bit, but if you can get it early on, you can adapt, you can finish your university education," Mardon said.

Lux, Patershut, and Yu's goal for the documentary is to educate the community about the disease an to eliminate some of the wxisting misconceptions students might have about those suffering from schizophrenia. They share the same opinion as Mardon and believe that schizophrenia should be treated as alny physical illness would be.

"We are hoping to address those stereotypes and show people what it's like to have schizophrenia," Lux explained.

The students agreed that all the individuals they interviewed had something very moving to add to the documentary, which they hope will help people understand that persons suffering from schizophrenia are still human. "They are good people and they are normal people. They shouldn't be defined by this disorder," Yu added.

Along with raising awareness amongst the general public, the students hope to make the point that schizophrenia, if treated properly, is not the end of a person's life. Mardon, an example of the success of properly treated mental illness, agrees.

"It is important to realize that you can have a life with schizophrenia. It might not be the life you expected, but it can still be rewarding," he observed.

The documentary is tentatively scheduled to air on CJSP in mid-March. If you ore someone you know is exhibiting symptoms of schizophrenia, please contact the Edmonton Early Psychosis Treatment Initiative at 780-429-7890. To learn more about schizophrenia, information can be obtained fron the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta. Their toll free number is 1-800-661-4644.

Austin Mardon, CM
Telephone: 1-780-378-0063
Post Office Box 1223, Main Post Office,
Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA,
T5J 2M4
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