psychosis and stigma

during an interview with 29 year old Francisco yesterday at the psychiatric hospital, he recounted first experiencing symptoms of psychosis during his university years (this is typical of schizophrenia onset in men). his classmates and peers at the large public university he attended ostracized him, according to Francisco, they “labelled me as crazy, put me in the box of a madman”, and he lost friends and novias. Francisco dropped out of school and entered psychiatric treatment, lucky to receive public insurance for all his current outpatient treatment and medications. Now studying “gastronomía” and one day hoping to be a chef, Francisco longs to be treated “como normal” and emphasizes that his is a “schizofrenia leve”, not as serious as others’ mental illness. Like other patients we’ve interviewed, Francisco repeats the medical model of mental illness: “no tiene cura, pero se controla” (“there’s no cure, but you can control it”), and considers that he will have to take medication “por vida” (“for life”). And yet, along with his hoped-for career, Francisco’s vision of a “normal” life for himself includes marrying, having his own family, and being independent. Seeing him engage with us during the interview, bright, talkative, sociable, I hope for the same for Francisco and want to share his story so that we can begin to create social worlds more inclusive of people like Francisco that suffer symptoms of mental illness, so they can hope, dream, fear, and live alongside us, rather than feeling ostracized and shutting themselves behind closed doors in response to social rejection.


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