by Rebecca Chamaa

Schizophrenia Awareness Week is May 20 – 27th.

Here is a condensed list of things you can do to support people with this brain disease:

Be aware that some people with schizophrenia like to have their illness talked about, or written about in person first language. For example, I prefer to be called a person living with schizophrenia. To me, this puts my humanity and all of my complexities first, and my illness as a part, but not the whole of who I am. Other people with the illness call themselves schizophrenic and use the illness as their main identifier. You can do us all a favor and find out how the person you know or interact with chooses to speak or write about themselves involving their diagnosis of schizophrenia.

Support an artist with schizophrenia. You can buy products from Michelle Hammer (a woman with schizophrenia) who owns and operates the business, Schizophrenic.NYC. You can support Michelle’s business by buying a t-shirt, a pill box, leggings, or other items. Please check her out.

Buy a book by someone with schizophrenia to learn more about their experience, and to support their work. Esme Weijun Wang has a book out called The Collective Schizophrenias: Essays that is available on Amazon. Of course, you could buy Elyn Sak’s book, The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness but supporting less known authors (and there are many of us writing about our experiences with the illness) is a way to help those with fewer resources and access.

You can support a non-profit whose mission is to educate and raise awareness about schizophrenia. There are three non-profits started by women with schizophrenia that would be excellent choices. The Curesz Foundation started by Bethany Yesier is an excellent choice. Bethany is an advocate, speaker, writer, and is doing great work to raise awareness about a cure for schizophrenia. Cecilia McGough started a phenomenal organization called Students with Schizophrenia. Lastly, Allie Burke helped create Stigma Fighters.

Another way to help people living with schizophrenia is to write or call your elected officials about providing more treatment options for people with mental illness. The Mental Illness Policy Org. estimates that 250,000 mentally ill people are homeless. The Treatment Advocacy Center estimates that over 383,000 inmates are mentally ill and even referred to jails as the “new asylums.” We have a huge deficit where treatment is concerned, and a call to your representatives can help.

You can support, uplift, talk to, recommend for opportunities (like speaking engagements, sitting on panels, and writing articles), befriend, and become a part of the social network that is so critical for those of us living with a severe illness.

Lastly, you can read a few articles (like this one) and learn a little about an illness that is so misunderstood and where the people who have it are often stereotyped and live with stigma that is frequently oppressive.

Rebecca Chamaa is a writer and speaker with schizophrenia. She is the author of A Guided Mental Illness Journal & Workbook: Build Confidence and Coping Skills and PILLS, POETRY & PROSE: Life With Schizophrenia. She has been featured in The Fix, Headspace, and Psych Central.

You can visit Rebecca here.