Doc seeks to dispel stereotypes in schizophrenia

GERREN KEITH GAYNOR Special to the AmNews | 8/1/2012, 4:48 p.m.

Amador, a professor at Columbia University Teachers College and a highly sought-after expert, said that treating schizophrenia is personal for him because his brother struggled with the illness. Before introducing the film at the New York screening, Amador pointed out that stories like Smith's and those of the other two participants are rarely told in the media, referencing a study that found that over 80 percent of media portrayals of schizophrenia patients were as violent, suicidal and aggressive.

"Do I look dangerous to you?" Smith asked with humor.

Smith said she would like to be a poster child for schizophrenia in the Black community.

"I want to show others that this illness is affecting diverse communities," she said. Smith pointed out that in the African-American community, people tend to think they can pray the illness away.

"They think your faith isn't intact or you may be possessed with demonic spirits. I hope that church members and the African-American community will see that this is a medical concern that needs to be addressed and that it can be overcome with consistent treatment, support and education."

Smith is now on the Georgia board of directors for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, where she serves as a program trainer. She also started her own nonprofit organization, Embracing My Mind, in 2009. Smith says her community work, as well as blogging, not only helps her with her own recovery but gives her a platform to help others like her.

"I share my story to let people know what schizophrenia is, that you don't have to fear it," Smith said. "You can cope with it. It is difficult, but it can be managed."

For information on "Living With Schizophrenia: A Call for Hope and Recovery," visit www.choicesinrecovery.com. To learn more about Smith's nonprofit organization, visit www.embracingmymind.org.