An Irish man who lives with paranoid schizophrenia has said that the stigma and misinformation surrounding mental illness causes people to automatically assume that those with the condition are dangerous and violent.
Brian Scallan (23) from Co. Wexford was diagnosed with the disorder in 2012 and said that people can often judge those living with the condition because of the stigma surrounding mental health.
“There is a huge stigma attached to mental health,” he said.
“When people hear that someone has Paranoid Schizophrenia straight away they jump to conclusions and think that person is dangerous but that is not the case. Of course in some cases it is but in the majority of cases like mine, it isn’t.
“I know other people with Paranoid Schizophrenia and they wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
The 23-year-old’s battle with the disorder began when he was a student in Waterford in 2011, when he began to experience delusions in the wake of a traumatic event.
“I became extremely paranoid and believed everyone knew my face,” said Brian.
“I believed the whole country knew me and even people in England knew me and to this day I still believe that and I have had to live with this ever since.”
“Although psychiatrists and my family have told me that’s not possible, I have a massive problem believing that as I believe it’s 100pc true. It’s a struggle.”
Brian revealed that his delusions became worse in December 2014 when he was targeted by cruel online bullies. Brian admitted he became very low and tried to take his own life to escape the difficulties of the condition.
“It made things so much worse and I started to hear voices and hallucinate, something I never experienced before. It was quite scary. I dropped out of a college course and gave up playing soccer which I love. I lost interest in everything as I couldn’t cope with the voices and the hallucinations. I became severely depressed too as a result.
“I thought these vicious voices or hallucinations would never go and that there was no hope for me whatsoever.
“In February last year, I tried to take my own life because of the voices that were telling me to do this, and I tried again in March," he said.
Fortunately, Brian was given the help he needed to cope with the condition in Waterford Regional Hospital and later in Tusnua in Co. Wexford, where he underwent rehabilitation.
“Thankfully they have found a tablet that helps me although I do still hear voices but they’re not vicious and they’re manageable enough. I am not hallucinating anymore,” he said.
Brian revealed that although he is in a good place in managing the condition, the recent death of his friend William by suicide threw his recovery into a spin. He believes that a change in attitude towards mental illness could help save Irish lives in the future.
“William was a very close friend of mine who I got to know through Waterford hospital. We remained the best of friends on the outside. He was so full of life and a very happy go lucky kind of guy and I enjoyed being around him.
“He didn't have paranoid schizophrenia but he had bipolar. Will didn't decide he wanted to commit suicide but rather his illness did. That's what everyone has to understand. Will died from bipolar just like as if someone died from cancer. They're both illnesses that can potentially kill,” said Brian.
Brian has said channelling his energy into his passion, sports, has helped him cope as he continues to undergo treatment with a psychologist.
“Listening to music helps me too as it drowns out the voices. I find going for long walks helps me cope. I’ve gone back to soccer and hurling in recent months and I’m really enjoying it. I’m looking into college courses and am hoping to get back into education next year,” he said.
Brian revealed that by opening up about his illness, he will help others who are living in silence.
“I hope by me telling my story that it will help other people in some shape or form.
“If anyone is reading this and is experiencing hallucinations or hearing voices they should know that there is no need to be embarrassed or to feel judged.
“You just have to keep your head up and things will get better. There is hope and I am living proof,” he said.
For more information and support on coping with mental illness visit www.spunout.ie or www.voicesireland.ie
In April 2014, after a long, long period of recurrent depression, hospitalisation and medication trial and error, I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). I remember the day so clearly. I had been in the psychiatric system for two years by then, but was being treated for 'just' depression. It took quite a while for the word 'borderline' to be mentioned - it's a massively stigmatised disorder, and notoriously hard to diagnose and treat, so is a conclusion psychiatrists are slow to reach.
Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy refuses to accept no for an answer. Boy pursues girl and wins her back if he tries hard enough. It's the cornerstone of many romantic films and songs, but the reality is so very different.