Violence, Schizophrenia, & This Journal

NEW YORK CITYVOICES: May/July 1998

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By Ken Steele, Publisher
 

To the general public, "violence" seems be to a synonym for "schizophrenia." We, the vast majority of schizophrenics and people with mental illnesses, are told to excuse the public for their ignorance because American movie makers have made billions of dollars with their "schizophrenic killer" films. Billions made at our expense; people living successfully in the community with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

Add to this all the misinformation the news media, and particularly the new, all-tabloid style news of the 1990's puts forth. Consider how regularly they play on people's fears by putting "psycho killer" headlines on the front pages of their newspapers, or as the subjects of their television and radio news and talk programs. All this media presenting basically two pictures of us: either we are alleged murderers and criminals using schizophrenia as an excuse for our crimes, or we are "mad" schizophrenics who should "not be let out and allowed to live in society." These images of us sell, or, as one friend in the media business told me, "if it bleeds it leads."

The fact that millions of people with schizophrenia live in the community today is good news, not bad. I know. I am one of them. Thankfully the days of the back wards at state hospitals are coming to an end. The fact that most schizophrenics are not dangerous and would never hurt anyone isn't newsworthy and doesn't sell. But it's the truth!

With new medications like clozaril and risperdal "awakening" even more of us to the real world, people with schizophrenia and their friends and families cannot afford to be in the shadows of this stigma any longer. I know this is a hard thing to do, but we must devise strategies in which
positive, accurate, and honest images of people living with schizophrenia are published and circulated and not only among ourselves but to the general public. Each one of us needs to educate our neighbors and friends that we need not to be feared.

One strategy for us - all the people whose names appear on page 2 of this journal, was to begin publishing New York City Voices, with the deliberate intent of telling the truth about people living with mental illnesses, including schizophrenia. Since 1995, we have strived to expand its circulation to include public places, including schools, colleges, restaurants, parks, storefront businesses, and mainstream apartment buildings where we live.

We began as a four-page newsletter, expanding it to 12 pages, and then changing it to the much larger 8-page news print format we use now. We started printing only 5,000 newsletters. Today, 14,000 journals are printed, mailed, and distributed. We publish every two months now with the hope to become monthly, 12-pages news print, and to continue to expand our distribution to more public places.

We are dedicated to publishing the true experiences of people with mental illnesses. Our mission is to remind ourselves and the public that the "headline news" about us isn't true of us as a community of people, or individually. We all need to take a positive stand to fight back this tidal wave of stigmatization. We hope you will join with us.

Do you know of a public place that needs NYC Voices?
 


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