The last several weeks have been such an absolute blur that I’m not even certain where I should begin.
Currently I am in Psychology 125: Concurrent Disorders and Psychiatric Rehabilitation, a fascinating course outline serious mental illness (SMI) and addictions that co-occur. Previously I had thought to understand these conditions of the person better than most in my class, having come from a previous lifestyle of SMI and addictions, having watched my friends suffer and felt the effects myself. I want to say that the clients I will deal with out there deserve far more respect and understanding than that of which they are given. I was completely blind, but I thought I would go into this course having all the answers.
I think the largest eye opener for me was an in-class assignment we did where we were given a track to download and listen to. This audio file contained voices that simulate schizophrenia.
While listening to this track, we were given a number of assignments to attempt to complete – a mock psychiatrist interview, folding origami, a hunt for random items, a word search – all the while these voices speaking to me in my head. At times they would speak softly and quietly, assuring me that everything would be okay and then suddenly, with no warning, they would scream at me, telling me how pathetic I am and how I would amount to nothing. They told me to stare at the ground and would say I was stupid. Despite knowing that I was listening to an audio track and these were not real voices or even fabricated in my mind, by the end of the 45 minutes I was depressed and truly felt horrible. About 10 minutes into the exercise I became frustrated and noticed difficulty concentrating. I even found myself listening to what the voice was telling me to do – i.e. look at the ground, don’t look there, etc. – and I even caught myself talking back to the audio track out loud.
There are a number of presentations and papers in this course that I found extremely thought provoking and interesting, but most of all I have really enjoyed our guest speakers.
We have had a number of guest speakers come into our class to speak to us – individuals who work in forensics, some who live with an SMI – and share their experience with us about mental illness. We have learned basic treatment plans and the knowledge our instructor has in the field has been invaluable.
This is by far my favourite course in the program, and is the stuff I came to learn. I’m off to study, but I leave you with this powerful quote that has been on my mind the last several weeks as my classmates and I learn how we can contribute to the mental wellness of those we hope to help.