On Thursday, I went to a local College’s mental health awareness week with a colleague. I believe it was the first mental health awareness week the College has ever had to I was eager to see what the results would be. The schedule looked great, but there could have been some improvements to the event which I detailed in a feedback email.
Anyways, I want to tell you about a particular incident I encountered that has me concerned. My colleague and I were called over to a table to decorate a free cookie OR do a mental health awareness crossword (yes…I found the trade off interesting). We sat down to do the crossword and I was stumped by some of the questions because they didn’t match up with the terminology or experiences I was familiar. I came to one clue that said, “Grandiosity is a symptom of what illness?” I knew that schizophrenia could have delusions of grandeur, but the answer was only 5 letters long so I asked for a clue. I told the volunteers (who were students of the College) that it’s not schizophrenia so I’m not sure what the answer it. One of the volunteers proceeded to explain schizophrenia to me as, “Someone who has multiple personalities and does crazy things.” My colleague and I looked at this volunteer briefly, in shock at her explanation of schizophrenia, before explaining to her what schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder are. One of her fellow volunteers also explained that words like “crazy” shouldn’t be used to describe people as they are offensive and hurtful. This misinformed volunteer also went on to say that the majority of homeless people have schizophrenia which is not an accurate statement. Needless to say, I walked away from the event fairly put off.
It pained me greatly that someone wearing a “Mental Health Awareness Week Volunteer” name tag could unknowingly spread misinformation to students and visitors. If I and my colleague did not know about schizophrenia or dissociative identity disorder then the above misinformation is what we would have walked away with. It scares me to think about how many students heard this misinformation and potentially how many students who experience schizophrenia or dissociative identity disorder were told this. To then throw in the word “crazy” is the cherry on top. I recommended volunteer training for next year as a mental health awareness week cannot include harmful misinformation.
Oh, by the way, the answer to the question was “mania”. From my understanding mania is NOT an illness but a symptom of a disorder, commonly Bipolar Disorder. Also, I have been told that mania feels more like a high. You don’t necessary think you’re hot shit when you’re manic (and grandiosity means having an unrealistic sense of superiority) you just feel like you can do everything and anything, no need for sleep, food, breaks. You just go. (Correct me if I’m wrong, please).