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The Schizophrenia Oral History Project

In this project, we collected life histories of people with schizophrenia. Their stories reveal insight into their condition, talents, compassion, ethical systems that guide their lives, and a deep desire to contribute to the world they live in.

Tracy McDonough

on 12 October 2013

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Transcript of The Schizophrenia Oral History Project

Our Turn to Speak at Last: Stories of Living with Schizophrenia
The Schizophrenia Oral History Project
Provide a forum for narrators' voices
Promote public understanding of narrator's lives
Goals of the Project
Our courageous narrators have taken a great personal risk in sharing their stories, and they have done so in the belief that their experience in facing their challenges will be of use to someone else. It is their hope that because they have spoken out, life may be easier for others who have schizophrenia, that new opportunities may open for them, that they may find greater acceptance. But for their dreams to be realized, their voices must be widely heard, and it is to that cause that we are devoted. It is not enough simply to arrive with a microphone and return with a completed transcript. Our narrators have something to say to the world, and it is something the world needs to hear.
A final thought
Few people are familiar with the human side of someone living with schizophrenia, and these stories provide a window into their world and perspective. Through recording the life stories of this stigmatized and marginalized population, their similarities to the general population, their courage and their basic humanity are revealed in a way that is impossible while they remain silent. Furthermore, the very act of being heard can be healing in many ways, and while the therapeutic nature of the experience cannot be expected to “cure” the illness, it does make the lives of sufferers less lonely, less frightening and more empowered. Thus, telling their stories is important in enabling listeners to gain a greater understanding and empathy for individuals struggling with severe mental illness, and also important for those living with schizophrenia themselves.
Historically, there is perhaps no group of people more stigmatized than those with mental illness, and this is especially true for those with schizophrenia. Because the symptoms of their illness include perceptual and cognitive distortions, people with schizophrenia are often viewed as unpredictable and unreliable, feared, and avoided. They become cut off from friendships and more casual social relationships. They are isolated and unheard. In fact, we have been unable to find another project where persons with schizophrenia share their life stories, and research shows that only recently are they consulted even about their medication.
While it is true that the perceptual and cognitive distortions of schizophrenia in the acute phase can render oral histories unintelligible, most people with schizophrenia have periods of stability during which they are perfectly capable of describing their experiences and feelings. And while schizophrenia does result in the severe narrowing of individuals’ lives, it does not preclude the attachments, fears, plans, and dreams that are common to most of us.
Love of animals
Strong survivor
coping and caring
Dr. Lynda Crane
Dr. Tracy McDonough
Open Call for Narrators
Full transcript