In conjunction with Schizophrenia Awareness Week, May 15-21, 2017, Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA)  marked the week by bringing one of their premier programs Hearing Voices of Support (HVoS) to life by creating a perception changing interactive Iight and sound experiential artistic exhibit in Tribeca at One Art Space, 23 Warren Street.

The exhibit features interviews of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, family members, and care givers. Attendees enter a darkened gallery filled with stage smoke and step into a pillar of light turning on directional speakers surrounding the guest with the voice of the projected video creating an intimate experience between the person in the interview and the viewer.

Hearing Voices of Support exhibit. Courtesy of SARDAA

The ambiance around each video created an atmosphere where the person watching the interview was able to sense in a minute way what a person with schizophrenia might experience.

Following the experience, guests were offered the opportunity to speak of their experience and provide their expressions of support. The voiced messages of support scroll on an 80” screen for all to see and each day the messages converge to spell one word. The First day’s word was “HOPE”, the second day’s word was “LOVE”. We are excited to see each day’s “word” and the final list of “words” and supportive messages.

The people in the interviews are from all different backgrounds and from across the country. Their stories touched every person who visited the exhibit.

The more people speak up and speak out about neuro-psychiatric (mental) disorders, the less fear people have of those with brain disorders. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, you take insulin but if you are diagnosed with schizophrenia or a related disorder, there is no specific medication to take. Clinicians need to tweak the meds and be involved with the patients in an integral way in order to avoid hospitalization. This is most often not the case and that is one of the reasons SARDAA and HVoS teamed up to try and make a change. The goal was to educate, raise awareness and help break the stigma/discrimination against people with psychiatric brain illnesses.

Interviewees and others affected by psychosis were available to talk to and ask questions of. Since the original interviews some people were in recovery, some had some exacerbations and some have come back from the brinks of suicide. Like everyone’s life the journey is a rise and fall of health, but with people challenged by psychosis that might mean tragedy.  All are currently doing well.

Hearing Voices of Support exhibit. Courtesy of SARDAA

Susan Sheena is the mother of four boys. Her eldest son, Lance, is an ex-drug addict who has schizophrenia. She is passionate about advocating for her son’s recovery and also helping others so that they do not have to go it alone. Susan discovered SARDAA and is committed to sharing her experience, strength, and hope with others through the Family and Friends Support Group. She says the family motto to get through the hard times has been “take it one day at a time.”

Lance Sheena has been on medication for OCD and ADHD since the age of 12. Later, he started experimenting with drugs like marijuana and cocaine and became an addict. It took 6 years for Lance to be diagnosed with schizophrenia. After multiple hospital and rehab stints, Lance is now off illicit drugs and living independently in Great Neck, thanks to the support of his family and doctors. He works part-time for an e-commerce company.