FOREWORD 

This volume of poetry was of great therapeutic value. The first section Schizophrenia consists mostly of poems during the first years of my mental illness. The second section Self Help Groups aimed its poems at the Phoenix Project’s declaration.

The third section The Road Back consist of poems on how did I better my well being and lastly Honorarium. It consists of poetry of the important people and role players who had an influence on me during my mental illness. These influences in many ways still persist. The poems of my mother and father were not constructed to prove they are bad parents.

It was only done for the reason that I high light some factors of my youth which have some psychological value. Actually although they are in depend and living in the Western Cape Province they were good parents as their friends will know. In the poem “Martie” I refer to apartheid this apartheid was not just the black and white issue but those between English and Afrikaans.

As a child I was ostracized for not being enough Afrikaans or English because of my Scottish names and heritage. I have included this little article I wrote on discrimination Because of mental illness because I thought it is relevant to this work.

 

“DISCRIMINATION BECAUSE OF MENTAL ILLNESS

On the matter of discrimination and stigma because of mental illness, in particular schizophrenia. Discrimination and its associated stigma is a social illness of our community and particular the western community for the prognosis is better for instance in the other cultures of the developing world. This social illness therefore has an influence on mental illness because of behaviour and expectations towards those with mental illness.

Unlike other physical illnesses which are understood and except able in the community mental illness which also can be of a physical consequence are not except able or understood by the community. For instance I found so many people not knowing what schizophrenia is or if they had an idea confused it with multi personality disorder, very few can even distinguish between the schizo-spectrum disorders which are related to this illness not even taking in account other illnesses and substance abuse which may provide similar symptoms.

This argument focus on the general community, I want to move into the affected community those who treat, care and employ members with mental illness. They should be more knowledgeable but this is not necessarily true as I will explain mostly from a western cultural point of view. For even if the person with mental illness are cared and treated have they certain rights which may be ignored or overlooked. Mental illness is real, it is a sickness, it is disabling but they are still whole humans in the holistic, Gestalt and existential sense of Human and individualism.

This whole human is sometimes missed by those who care, employ and treat them. These humans have the right to become healthy and develop as extraordinary people in the community to positively utilize their more permanent symptoms in their favour without necessarily manipulating others and the community. But what is worst is to mechanically process them as a production system, give up hope and have unrealistic expectations to wards their prognosis as to expect too much and to little from these metal ill sufferers. It is more than just a behavioural approach it must be a holistic one both emotional and cognitive and both consciously and unconsciously.

Not all therapies are effective but jointly they mostly cover the whole human spectrum where one therapy cover one element and one functional point. Good and effective psycho therapies may exist and even chemical therapies have their limit in the human repertoire it is these therapies which I am addressing. All therapies should be a combined effort to the individual case no one is an island and one day when we find a cure we will discover we had to be holistic.

That is fine but consideration should always be given to the whole person. It is here and particularly here where professional mental health workers may treat people with mental illness incorrectly and provide the breading ground for discriminary practices by carerers, employers and the community.

The professionals behaviours, assumptions and points of view are taken for granted as the truth. It is here where the cares are educated to accommodate a person with mental illness in the family and on this advice they normally act according to their perception and interpretations of professional advice. Few will start and attend support groups and even fewer will study, really study the field to help their family member. It is too easy to succumb to the fact that we can rely on advice of friends, other family members and our own interpretations and expectations.

So little new creative view are taken in the mentally ill but to pigeon hole them and process them as a sort of lesser human which is not capable to become better or do the things normal people can do at higher levels. Structure and tasks are to easily taken to fast and uninteresting for those with mental illness. It is not that those with mental illness do not discriminate between themselves because of difference in mental illnesses, symptoms, medicine side effects and their general prognosis of their particular illness and person trough in correct comparisons.

But generally they find coherence and form a functional group of their own. Sometimes it happens to such an extent that they have to be split-up by new blood and other personalities different to their own to create a better treatment to rehabilitate them back in to the community as the current policy subscribe than to keep them in their own group and close workshop in a protective world of an institution.

The three factors of professional care, carerers and mental illness sufferers’ views and behaviours can influence the perceptions of employers and the general community. If we want to change these perceptions must we first work from this trio and first get their house in order. Then it will we certainly be more effective in changing the community and employer views and perceptions on those with mental illness.

People with mental illness: We must stand up for our rights by ourselves and do our own advocacy probably in a forum context. See the short reference to the Phoenix Project at the end of this work.

Mental Health Professionals: They must be more creative, humanistic and holistic in their general approach and motivate people with mental illness to express themselves appropriately. They can also help to educate and inform the carerers, employers and community out of a professional point of view which is highly regarded and trusted.
Carerers (Family, friends, ECT): They need to be continuously being educated, informed and supported. Besides support by professional mental health care can they be supported by carerer support groups, other related organizations. They from their side should approach professional mental health workers for such help and organize it in their community.
 
Employers and partners: With the equities bill employers and partners can not discriminate against the mentally ill. But they do need assistance and support to employ and manage people productively with mental illness.

General community: The community usually gets much of the blame of discrimination and stigma against mental illness but we know where the discrimination comes from. Not only from the bizarre behaviour of people with mental illness but from the views from professional care, carerers, employers.

Lastly on this matter do I refer back to the people with mental illness. We should not hide as a mystery as it enforces not only inappropriate behaviour of the mentally ill it self but their and the perceptions of the community too. Therefore must we advocate and come in the open like people with visual confirmed physical disabilities and diabetes are less discriminated and stigmatized in the community.

They can identify themselves; they are accepted and accommodated as extraordinary people with productive benefits to society. Why can we with mental illness not have the same rights and opportunities? I have done this in society with success for myself; people did not want to believe I was a person with schizophrenia even with my underlining negative symptoms and medication side effects. They accepted me as a normal but extraordinary person.

I say rather call your diagnosis to what it is, educate the people around you and let  everybody know were you stand as an extraordinary person and they do not seem to have a problem with it once they understand you and they had a point of reference.

It is for this reasons and my personal experience that I have drafted my Phoenix Project proposal for the National Department of Health, a self help support group system which incorporates the support of both the community (carerers, friends, employers, partners and the community at large) and a support group represented by the professional health care workers. It focuses on psychosocial rehabilitation assistance and the socio-economic upliftment of disabled people with mental illness. We need to work together as a holistic team and have a creative and open mind. What I finally would say, “One is not many but it is always the start of a crowd.”