Fashion / Psychiatry

How A Determined Schizophrenic Woman From NYC Is Breaking Stigma About Mental Illness

{Schizophrenic.NYC buttons, bracelets, stickers}

In just a little over a year since I last interviewed Michelle Hammer (founder of Schizophrenic.NYC, a clothing line aimed at promoting mental health awareness), her company and mission have gained an exponential amount of support from the media and community.  Since hundreds of thousands of people with schizophrenia are living on the streets, Michelle’s clothing line donates a portion of its profits to organizations that help the mentally ill homeless population of New York City.  Being diagnosed with schizophrenia herself, Michelle demonstrates that people with schizophrenia can succeed, have a career, and live a normal life.  She breaks stereotypes about a diagnosis highly stigmatized.  I was fortunate to have the opportunity to catch up with Michelle to get an update on Schizophrenic.NYC and her thoughts on living with mental illness:

1.  It has been over a year since I last interviewed you on my blog.  What would you say has been your biggest accomplishment in the last year?

I would have to say that I have accomplished a lot in the past year, but what I have accomplished the most is changing the way people view mental health and how they respond to it.  I’ve talked to many people at my pop-up shops about the mental health issues in NYC as well as across the country.  People always seem surprised when I tell them the statistic in NYC is that 1 in 5 New Yorkers have a mental health issue.  When people hear that they now understand that mental illness is so much more common than what they originally thought.  Also, many people that I know are now much more comfortable about talking about their own mental health struggles.  I have had people tell me that, because of me and my openness, they now feel more open to discuss their issues with their family and friends.  If everyone would be more open, then more people can see how common mental health issues really are in society.

2.  Congratulations on being featured on numerous renowned news platforms such as Buzzfeed and Daily Mail!  It’s a testament to how much heart and hard work you put into growing Schizophrenic.NYC and spreading your mission. What do you think it is about Schizophrenic.NYC that the media is most drawn to?

I am so grateful to have been featured in such awesome publications as Buzzfeed, The Daily Mail, and Mashable.  I think people are drawn to Schizophrenic.NYC because it was started by me, a girl with schizophrenia, who wants to change the way society sees mental health.  It’s often thought that people with schizophrenia cannot build their own business, or work any type of “regular” job.  By breaking down that stereotype and barrier I am doing something the general public thought could not be done.

3.  Part of Schizophrenic.NYC’s mission is to make a difference in the way that the mentally ill homeless population is treated. What do you think people should consider when they encounter homeless people on the streets? What do you think is the biggest misconception about the mentally ill homeless population?

It’s hard to say what people should do when they encounter homeless people on the streets. When I walk by a homeless person who is yelling at nobody, and exhibiting obvious symptoms of schizophrenia then I start to feel sympathetic.  I know that if these people had the support of friends, family and a doctor they would be able to get the treatment they need, and they would be able to function in society.  I would say the biggest misconception about the homeless population is that they are a lost cause, and none of them can be helped, which is completely not true.  If someone is homeless and mentally ill, they need to get the right help.  Here in NYC we need more outreach to help these homeless people who are suffering.

4.  A lot of my readers/followers are future mental health clinicians or are in the medical field.  Do you feel that people with schizophrenia are often misunderstood when seeking treatment/support?  Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give mental health/medical practitioners about how to approach someone diagnosed with schizophrenia? 

When I first was diagnosed with schizophrenia I got very depressed.  I thought nobody would ever love me or want to associate with me because of my diagnosis.  I think that something I should have been told was that with the right medication and monitoring that I can live a perfectly normal life. I am not my diagnosis.  I am me.  Just because you get diagnosed with schizophrenia doesn’t mean your life is over.  It’s just the beginning of getting the best help you can, and living the best life you can.

{Michelle Hammer, creator of Schizophrenic.NYC}

For more info on Schizophrenic.NYC, check out their websiteFacebook, and Instagram.

2 thoughts on “How A Determined Schizophrenic Woman From NYC Is Breaking Stigma About Mental Illness

  1. Pingback: How A Determined Schizophrenic Woman From NYC Is Breaking Stigma About Mental Illness - Schizophrenic.NYC Mental Health Clothing Line

  2. Pingback: Doctor bloggers you need to know – watercress words

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