November 1st, 2011
08:20 AM ET

Human Factor: There is no face of schizophrenia

In the Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle injury, illness or other hardship they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn't know they possessed. This week  Ashley Smith shares the shock and struggle of learning she had schizophrenia.

In the summer of 2007, my life changed drastically when I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at the age of 20.

I was made aware of my illness when I stole a military truck from an airport and went on a high-speed chase with the police. I was jailed and later hospitalized for that crime.

I am now on my journey to recovery with the support of family, treatment team, peers and my faith. I share my recovery story as often as I can because I want to help reduce stigma, change perceptions, and encourage an open conversation about mental illness.

My hope is that that the public will have a better understanding of schizophrenia, be supportive of people living with it, be open to discuss one’s need for treatment, and help them seek treatment. Support and treatment are the keys to successfully managing schizophrenia and there are resources available to help consumers, caregivers, family, co-workers and friends understand it and that recovery is very possible.

I encourage people to visit www.choicesinreovery.com to get that information. You can also view the documentary, “Living With Schizophrenia: A Call For Hope and Recovery,” which is about three people, including myself, who are living successful and productive lives.

Two additional things about schizophrenia that I want to share is that there is no face to schizophrenia; and that the myths that people with schizophrenia are violent, have split personalities and that it is caused by poor parenting are not true. As you can see from my story, I do not fit the stereotype of how people characterize the condition and the people who have it.

Coping with schizophrenia: Why you need a crisis plan

I did not know what schizophrenia was prior to being diagnosed. I did not know that I had a history of mental health in my family, and I did not recognize that the illness was gradually stealing my identity. But now that I am aware of my condition, I am fighting back by giving back and sharing information to spread awareness and hope through my nonprofit Embracing My Mind, Inc.

The hardest thing I’ve had to cope with was the fact that I have a lifelong diagnosis and I will be in treatment for the rest of my life. If there was something I could change it would be societal acceptance of mental health and schizophrenia to be viewed as a medical condition like any other.

I’m hopeful that through my story, people will become more aware of schizophrenia and change their perceptions about it. I’m hopeful that people who witness my story on Human Factor will provide comments to this blog on whether my story has helped them to better understand schizophrenia and put them on the road to changing their perceptions.

soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. Pam

    Thanks for having the courage to share your experience and knowledge about schizophrenia. My family has a history of mental illness, and the stigma associated with it is so damaging.

    November 1, 2011 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. vernelleburkins

    I have issues and glad 2 c there is hope.

    November 1, 2011 at 12:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Stephen H. East

      Yes, there is hope Vernelle Burkins, please pardon the pitch. If you really care you'd try anything, mine isn't so bad. A board certified psychiatrist cured me of a repression. He didn't report it to the AMA because he didn't cure all of the schizophrenia. Quote Sigmund Freud : " The key to curing schizophrenia lies in curing repression." Please visit my April 2016 schizophreniarepressioncured.blogspot.com There brief, autobiographical. Thank you for your time.

      August 27, 2016 at 12:57 | Report abuse |
  3. Harold A. Maio

    There is no face to schizophrenia

    There is no one face, there are many, from people holding doctorates and awards to people presently helpless.

    November 1, 2011 at 16:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. C.J.

    Thankfully you are in recovery and leading a healthy life. This is often not the case for people with schizophrenia. Many are permanently disabled by their condition and unable to work or adequately care for themselves. Housing and care are often not affordable for individuals trying to make a living on disability payments. Many end up homeless and without the medication they so desperately need. Please, support additional subsidies and services for these folks.

    November 1, 2011 at 19:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Justin

      Why in the world do you think it's necessary to post this. This article is purposefully shedding some hope on it; people don't need to be made aware that it's 'hopeless' or that schizophrenia will have any other negative outcome. That developed hopelessness idea is what people should be avoiding. Yes,subsidies and services is a beneficial support method, but your negative 'enlightenment' isn't.

      November 1, 2011 at 20:59 | Report abuse |
    • Catherine

      @Justin, probably because the lack of knowledge about many mental illnesses is exactly why people are unable to get health services. The writer of this article seems fortunate in that they have the ability and support system to succeed, but many don't. People wonder why homeless people are "lazy" and don't just get jobs, but most of them are mentally ill. More knowledge to what this does to a person's life could help many people. It's not negative, iot's the truth.

      November 3, 2011 at 18:40 | Report abuse |
  5. mindy schoen

    Ashley, My mother suffered from paranoid schizophrenia in the 1970's it was so in the closet. It was the worse time of my life, she was fine one day and the next she was putting signs all over the house, everyone was out to get her. She would throw bit fits on her parents. I was so ashamed that my mother was sick. She kept telling the family that someone had put LSD in her drink. She was 45 when it was full blown. We didn't believe her at first but thirty years later we do now. We tried to get her help but she was not a danger to herself or anyone else. She lived on her own without medication until she died at the age of 80. People need to remember that children of schizophrenia can also have mood disorders. Keep up the great work and I hope you can have all your dreams come true.

    November 2, 2011 at 07:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Cary

    She needs to know going into a therapy degree to never tell coworkers that she is schizophrenic. I've been fired because I told human resources as a therapist and I know of others with the illness who have also been fired for telling. Employers can make up any reason they want to fire someone, no matter how obvious it is. The stigma is well entrenched even with the same people who are trying to help people with schizophrenia. I am very proud of what I over came, but very selective with who I tell.

    November 2, 2011 at 11:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • webbbyte

      How should employers address employees or potential candidates with schizophrenia?

      November 6, 2011 at 06:26 | Report abuse |
    • Chrisa Hickey

      The same way employers handle any other candidate with any other disability or illness. That's like asking how you'd handle a candidate in a wheelchair.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:35 | Report abuse |
  7. Bob

    This article only increases feelings of hopelessness about our once great society.

    It seems that almost EVERYONE is disabled one way or another these days. Tell me, who will keep society running when we ALL reduce ourselves to these roles where we drain more resources than we give back?

    I'm sorry, but the mental-illness epidemic is no different than the obesity epidemic. It is self induced. And if you are genetically predisposed to a condition, then by all means, get treatment. But do us all a favor and don"t have kids.

    November 2, 2011 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kelly

      Bob,your comparison of the "mental-illness epidemic" to the "obesity epidemic" is completely unfounded. Mental illnesses are hereditary conditions that can be brought on, in many cases, by genes alone. Many of the illnesses have relatively sudden symptoms, ones that can't be combatted by the victim.

      Obesity is very much an epidemic, but one we know much more about and could potentially handle without the need of medical prescriptions – better nutrition, exercise, etc. Obesity is a very recent problem in our society, unlike mental illnesses, which have been around for millennia.

      November 3, 2011 at 12:50 | Report abuse |
    • dina

      Your presumptions and comments are ignorant and ill-informed. Mental illness is disease of the brain just the same as if you had a broken leg or the flu.

      December 3, 2011 at 19:47 | Report abuse |
  8. Jack William Atkins



    November 3, 2011 at 05:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lamiz

      Great chatting with you toghnit Dave (the random stranger who stopped by as you were shooting downtown). You have some truly amazing shots here. I love the colour and contrast. If you're interested, feel free to send me a e-mail. I'd love to maybe shoot with you some time. Steve

      September 13, 2012 at 21:08 | Report abuse |
  9. Cary

    Sorry, but most people don't get it from their parents genes.

    November 3, 2011 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Henry Wolfinger

    My son John suffers from this illness, it's sometimes a helpless feeling I have, you want to help, but you just don't know how sometimes. You just keep going on, trying and praying. Thanks for trying to create a better understandjing of this illness.

    November 4, 2011 at 23:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Karen Sherry Brackett

    First, I would like to thank Dr. Gupta and Ms. Smith both for this report. I hope that they will do follow up pieces concerning this topic. The term schizophrenia means split brain. Basically, under stress the human brain has the capiability to do a remarkable survival instinct which is to stay awake 24 hours a day. It comes at a cost however in that the half of the brain that is awake while viewing reality will also be seeing the dreams as if real of the half that is asleep. So, it becomes confussing and disabling over long periods of stress. This is what some of our soldiers are dealing with in coming home from war. The stress of war has placed great fatique on their minds and bodies and has kept them in heightened alert for long periods of time. In pioneer days during a Indian raid which might have lasted a few days to a week the ability of the human brain to do this would have been a survival instinct. However, in today's world of war which last decades and unending periods of stress, the brians receptors can get stuck in this mode. It is very similar really to a muscle spasm of the brian. There are other things that can trigger it besides war such as sleep apnea or anything that deprives the mind of rest. There are medications for this and doing simple things such as avoiding caffine and nicotine so that the brian is able to sleep on cue at night with both sides resting is beneficial. In addition, all schizophrenics really should be tested and treated as if they have sleep apnea because in most cases this patient truly does fall into the sleep disorder range of diseases. A very small percent of people are born with the disease and in those cases only it will show up on a CAT scan in brian images that exhibit extra empty spaces in the brain which are most likely created from malnutrition in the womb or in childhood rather than genetic heritage. Before diabetes was understood people thought diabetics were under the control of demons and people who had heart attacks were "bad" people at heart. For someone to loose their job over this disease is ignorance at it's best. So, I really appreciate CNN covering this material and Ashley's courage in coming forward and attempting to educate the public on it. It is about time this country move into the modern era from the dark ages when it comes to mental illnesses. Most of the problem no doubt is due to uneducated Hollywood screenplay writers and movie producers. There have been schizophrenics who have become successful neurologists and surgeons. In fact, most people in the health care professions are there due to their own conditions or the conditions of family members.

    November 5, 2011 at 22:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Kiki Ford

    I am proud that you are strong and facing life's challenges. Please know that this is only the beginning of good things to come. God bless you in furture endeavors. Love Kiki

    November 6, 2011 at 22:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Chrisa Hickey

    As the mom of a teen with this disorder, thank you for sharing your story.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. linda

    My son became scizophrenic after using marijuana. I have heard that this cause is on the increase. It would be interesting
    to know the statistics for marijuana-induced schizophrenia. Thank you for your encouraging words. We live day by day and
    trust that our son will be able to live a full and normal life. Time will tell.

    November 9, 2011 at 11:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nessajj

      I really apetpciare your post and you explain each and every point very well.Thanks for sharing this information.And I’ll love to read your next post too.My blog is on .

      September 14, 2012 at 01:47 | Report abuse |
  15. Patricia

    A blog with useful info for families and patients with psychotic disorders: curetoschizophrenia.blogspot.com, My son was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when he was 30s. After a difficult period coping with depression, anxiety and paranoia, My son feels his illness is under control and permanently cure using herbs, thanks to a very effective herbal product called CONSUMMO. In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you and everything will be okay, don't ever give up. check out the link to know more: http://curetoschizophrenia.blogspot.com/ or contact me with this so I can share our experience with you: patberg080@gmail.com

    November 9, 2016 at 14:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Yanush

      your CONSUMMO product is scam. Why you are advertising it. I payed 6000 to Justin a year ago for my daughter, and he did not send this product to me, and he did not return money to me. STOP scamming mentally ill people.

      July 31, 2018 at 11:53 | Report abuse |
    • Yanush

      I wrote you email on your patberg080@gmail.com, and you deceived me. You made me pay 6000 for CONSUMMO. Why are you scamming mentally ill people. Why you do that. How many more people you will cheat with that man Justin.
      STOP it

      July 31, 2018 at 12:03 | Report abuse |
    • Yanush

      I am very sorry Patricia and Dr. Justin for my comment on CONSUMMO, I have finally receive the medicine over a month now and its been working on my daughter... I call on all patients to ignore my previous comments. My opinion matters in this situation matter in this course because my comments has pushed away a lot of patients who ought to have benefit from the wonders of this herbs. Thanks

      November 23, 2018 at 04:55 | Report abuse |
    • MarcLawrenz

      Yanush,Is consummo true?

      December 2, 2018 at 20:10 | Report abuse |
    • Yanush

      I am Yanush, I never recieve CONSUMMO, I swear I did not. Those people placed comment under my name

      December 6, 2018 at 08:15 | Report abuse |
    • Yanush

      I am not sorry for my comment, You Patricia support scam. Whoever used my name putting sorries those were scam people. CONSUMMO never came to me. And Patricia are a Lyer, and scam same as Justin,
      Again anyone PLEASE do not buy CONSUMMO, I never got it!!!!!!!! Those sorrys was not posted by me.

      December 6, 2018 at 08:21 | Report abuse |
    • Yanush

      Another thing that CONSUMMO is scam, and they scammed my name. I DO NOT HAVE DAUGHTER. I did not order that medication for any daughters. Those people scams wrote that I received CONSUMMO and gave it to my daughter. What bandits, unbelievable. I was buying that for myself.
      They used my name, and placed fake information. DO not buy that staff. PLEASE DO NOT.

      December 8, 2018 at 16:41 | Report abuse |
    • Yanush

      Those scams for CONSUMMO placed comment that I bought that BS for my daughter. I do not have daughter, WHAT A SCAMS. Please I feel so stupid, not only I send them money, they turned me in to a joke, faked my name, gave apologies.
      I AM NOT SORRY. And I will go to police and report all information about CONSUMMO, sense this scam is not stopping. Maybe police will block their website.
      This is unbelievable.

      December 8, 2018 at 16:46 | Report abuse |
  16. Janice Wells

    Annabel's schizophrenia’s story


    My daughter (Annabel) suffered schizophrenia for 5 years. I had no idea what was happening and didn’t know where to turn for help. It was hard then because I really didn’t understand the symptoms earlier until she was diagnosed. There was a time she decided to get away from everyone, I was not excluded. I had to sit and cry almost every day because I felt helpless as a single mother (she is all I have got). The anguish I went through taking care of her alone is beyond explanation because there was no support of whatsoever from the dad or family members. I fought for proper medical care and humane treatment; I did everything within my reach to get her cured but all to no avail. Countless different medications was prescribed (Zyprexa, fluphenazine, Risperdal, quetiapine, etc.) that she was taking but all we could get was myriad of side effects such as rigidity, drowsiness, dizziness, tremors and restlessness which tends to worsen the already damaged situation. Frustration was the order of the day. I wrote couple of messages to Ontario Mental Health Foundation for help because watching my daughter go through such was devastating. It was at this foundation someone shared a testimony about VEEMEON herbal medicine, how effective it is and how she went through the most difficult times of her life trying to help her mom fight Schizophrenia. Being that I was already at the verge of giving up because I just couldn't imagine waking up every morning to fight the same demons that left me so tired the night before. I had to contact the doctor, from our conversation; I was relieved and convinced that the result is going to be positive because I was made to contact people with worse cases. Today, the awful situation of my daughter has gone by. Her happy life is back. She is now a schizophrenia survivor and I am glad because my daily routine activities can now kick off without obstructions. Don't let Schizophrenia hinder you from living a desired life and also, never allow anyone decide for you especially when they don't know what you have to go through to get to where you are. I was almost discouraged by the doctor but then, I remembered that: I have to shield my daughter’s destiny with courage, faith and perseverance because she is not in her right state of mind and that the bravery and freedom from fear is found in the ‘doing’. Her life is now a testimony. After my daughter got cured, she said, Mom “I just thought, ‘Well, I’m a weirdo, I’ll never be normal, then I said, my daughter, life itself is a misery and we get stronger in the places we have been broken. Thanks to you Dr. Austin for your excellent counseling, no more psychotic symptoms for the past 3 years and 4 months now. To know more about Dr. Austin and the effectiveness of his Herbs, You can view his blog: schizophreniacures.blogspot.com. I believe you will testify just like me.

    June 10, 2018 at 20:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Yanush

      Why VEEMON website has same pictures as CONSUMMO website. I have feeling that it was created by the same people, it also has same wording. you are same scam as CONSUMMO. If anyone will compare those websites they will see the resemblance. CONSUMMO guy did scammed on 6000$. I was such a full. And I have ill daughter. You people with your greed find someone else to cheat, besides those people who are mentally disabled.

      July 31, 2018 at 13:30 | Report abuse |
    • Yanush

      Sorry I don't have idea about Veemon, but Consummo is real

      November 23, 2018 at 04:57 | Report abuse |
    • MarcLawrenz

      janice wells,is it expensive?
      yanush,is consummo expensive?and it is true for you?

      December 1, 2018 at 18:16 | Report abuse |
    • MarcLawrenz

      janice wells, can i tak to you in message please?about his herbal medicine

      December 2, 2018 at 05:59 | Report abuse |
    • MarcLawrenz

      Yanush is Consummo true?

      December 2, 2018 at 06:22 | Report abuse |
    • Yanush

      Again I am real Yanush, CONSUMMO is not real those people placed comment using my name. CONSUMMO does not exist, they are just BSing everyone. I swear that CONSUMMO did not reach me, I never got it. And that Justin necver return my money. PLEASE do not give them anything. CONSUMMO is scam

      December 6, 2018 at 08:17 | Report abuse |
  17. Briona Kennedy

    I have already acquire CONSUMMO before coming across all your comments today. CONSUMMO is genuine mental and herbal treatment...I had though I was scammed before. The company was having series of problem in the past with mental organisation registration which I believe they have now resolved and everyone is now happy. Most of the negative comments here was written when the company was down. It's up and running. The only journey is the journey within. If you've not receive your CONSUMMO package, try to send a message to contact@curetoschizophrenia.com and it will get to you

    November 23, 2018 at 05:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MarcLawrenz

      please reply

      December 2, 2018 at 05:52 | Report abuse |
    • Yanush

      You Briona are a cheat scam. Ok you are. I send money to Justin never got this medication, never got my money back. PLEASE those who read the comment, if there will by any apology from my name. Know this was not me, those people used my name, deceiving you. Its been almost a year sense I got my self in to this CONSUMMO scam. I NEVER GOT THIS MEDICATION, not before not now.

      December 6, 2018 at 08:24 | Report abuse |
  18. MarcLawrenz

    it is too expensive for us

    December 1, 2018 at 18:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. MarcLawrenz

    can i email you?

    December 1, 2018 at 18:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Yanush

      HI MarkLawrenz
      Do not pay for CONSUMMO they will cheat you, I swear those people will do that to you. CONSUMMO is scam

      December 6, 2018 at 08:25 | Report abuse |
  20. MarcLawrenz

    Yanush,Thank you for your reply I have question what can you say about the testimonies on consummo in Youtube posted by Dr. Justin Rodwen hill?

    December 9, 2018 at 06:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. MarcLawrenz

    I am too desperate to Recover this illness Ruined my life and i am afraid that this will be my final destiny thats why Im here

    December 9, 2018 at 06:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Yanush

      Hi MarcLawrenz
      You will send money to Justin. They will rune you even more.
      That is what they did to me. So just save your time and finances. I am telling you it is scam.

      December 10, 2018 at 09:23 | Report abuse |
  22. Briona Kennedy

    My message is directed to Yanush, Amina and Stephan and other negative comments about CONSUMMO. I don't know who you are, how genuine or real you are but try to contact Dr. Justin directly through contact@curetoschizophrenia.com, if you have not receive your package. Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them. A lot of mental patients are passing through serious and unimaginable pain daily and you come here to deceive and convince the masses. His excellence is supposed to be commended, not envied. We are in the era committing silent crimes against humanity. There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact. I will never support scam, never. Check the arrival details: expressdeliverylogistics.pcial.com with the tracking no: BUUMY6B5MC9A5, I’m sad and disappointed for your comments. Strong people don't put others down...Why do we destroyed each other’s dreams?

    December 9, 2018 at 10:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • vashakidze777

      DR. Justin ????? He is not doctor, he cheap scam. I send him 5200, and what? I was dummy!!!!! So If people believe me, very good. They must.
      No-one need sent so much money for scam, and game. Especially those people who live out of disability.
      I got from him fake tracking number, and fake videos. And all that service for 5200$ dollars.
      I am not surprised why they post comments from fake people. They make a lot of money. So they keep protecting this fake business, because they do not have to earn it. It is easy and safe income.
      I do not care who posts what, for the other's sake DO NOT GET YOURSELF IN TO THAT FAKE, do NOT.
      It is SCAM, CONSUMMO is not a REAL PRODUCT.
      I know people will read comments, those who state that CONSUMMO is true are just part of this scam group.
      I know I did not see this herbal staff, I know I send money to lady named Mertiza. And that was it. I did not got my money back, and I did not get this herbal medication.

      December 10, 2018 at 09:36 | Report abuse |
  23. .......

    Good deal guys.
    I saw all commercial was post. My side is, when so many people scream there is scam. I will believe them. At least someone has guts state reality. Everyone knows people with mental illnesses get abused often. Die to their mental state.

    Shame CONSUMMO, shame again

    December 10, 2018 at 09:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Nancy Watters

    My heart goes out to everyone who have or cares for a mentally ill person. My daughter was diagnosed with schizophrenia 10years ago, She had gone through several bouts of depression, delusion and hallucinations. She always think CIA agents were spying on her, FBI agents looking to bring her down, everyone is plotting or trying to kill her, which weren't real; over 10 hospitalizations in just four years. Coping with schizophrenia wasn’t easy. She had attempted suicide and all treatment has done little for her improvement. We've finally benefited from some real dedicated support group of people with natural treatment and a small number of friends and family that knew and loved us. Dr (Mrs) Vanessa treatment has turned her life around, she is now without a symptom. I don’t want people to feel that suicide is their only option, know you are loved, you are valuable, you are worth more than your darkness. Reach out and get the support you need and deserve from suicide prevention resources page or email: drvanessah @ gmail. com to start your natural treatment, Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. Our hope is that one-day schizophrenia-related brain disorder receives respect, appropriate treatment and an opportunity to live a meaningful and satisfying life in a compassionate community free of discrimination.

    March 25, 2019 at 02:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Dr Justin Rodwen Hill

    My attention was been drawn to a statement made by some people that CONSUMMO is a scam. I like to state here clearly that nothing could be further from the truth than these unfortunate remarks. They are just about three patients who have contacted me whose herbal medicine was a bit delayed by custom and took time before it was returned to me, I have sent several messages to them for me to either refund the money or resend the package, one of them have responded and he later got the package. It would be heartless to hit people who are already down on the ground with this horrible diagnosis. I wouldn't have seen it but a concerned patient sent me the links, and a lot of wonderful patients suffering/died because we are in a world where people are surrounded by ignorance and have no opportunity to try real natural treatment. Those that are currently on my medication for this year alone are more than a thousand. I am committed to helping the Mental Health Society in any way I can. Nothing would be more absurd than having to perpetrate evil against mental patients, their families or their caregivers. I am a very trustworthy honest man and will never say what I can't offer. For the two patients that haven't received their package, send a message with proof, for either a complete refunding or reshipping. My herbal medicine is now approved worldwide and no longer affected by custom because of its obvious efficacy. No matter where on earth you live. We are the leaves of one branch, the drops of one sea, the flowers of one garden.


    December 2, 2020 at 09:49 | Report abuse | Reply

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