Elyn Saks is a law professor at the University of Southern California and adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego. She’s also been diagnosed with schizophrenia and has experienced some intense psychotic episodes.
She’s just published a book about her experiences called ‘The Center Cannot Hold’ (ISBN 140130138X) and was the subject of a recent Newsweek article.
Saks also gave an interview to mental health blog Treatment Online where she recounts some of the insights she has gained through her experiences about herself, the mental health system, and the possibilities of living with a mental disorder.
How do you feel that we as a larger society can mitigate the belief – and we feel a lot of people believe this even though they claim not to or can rationally move beyond it – that mentally ill individuals are somehow broken or incomplete?
I guess one way would be having examples of people who have mental illnesses who are doing well. People hear of schizophrenia and they think someone is never going to be able to live independently and work, and then you have people like me who stand up and say, “No, it doesn’t have to be that way.” Some people say well aren’t you unique, and I’m actually doing a study with folks at USC and UCLA on high-functioning individuals with schizophrenia. We’ve got an MD, we’ve got a Ph.D. psychologist, we’ve got some high-level consumer advocates, full-time students and stay at home parents. Just in LA in the past couple of months we’ve already recruited ten people, and we’re going to try to hear their stories and find out if there are things they do to master their illness that we might teach to other people so other people could become higher functioning.