When she was younger, Cecelia McGough wouldn’t talk about her hallucinations or other psychosis-like symptoms.
“People would often look at me in fear,” she shared during the 2022 Drs. Fred and Penny Frese Lecture, delivered via Zoom May 24. “But I want everyone to know that we all see, hear and feel things that aren't there when we're dreaming. There is no reason to be scared of me.”
McGough is founder and executive director of Students With Psychosis, a nonprofit organization linking college-aged individuals with psychosis with peers. She presented “Community-Building and Collaboration Among Students With Psychosis” along with members of the SWP team, including Dominique, internship coordinator, Allison Antcliff, student leader coordinator, Laura Kordowski, executive board member, Emeka Chima, secretary, executive board member, and Rei, executive board member. [Editor’s note: Some participants preferred to give first names only, due to sensitivities around the topic of psychosis.]
During the Frese lecture, McGough discussed her experience facing stigma even within her own family.
“I remember being on the phone with my mother saying, ‘Mom, I'm sick. I'm seeing things, hearing things that aren't there. I need to go to the doctor.’ Her response? ‘No, no, no, no. You can't tell anyone about this. This can't be on our medical history. Think of your future. Think of your sister's future,’” McGough recalled.
“My response to that now is don't let anyone, including yourself, get in the way of getting proper medical treatment,” she advised.
Team member Antcliff shared her perspective on managing her psychosis: “In many therapy sessions, I have been asked if I ever want to be symptom-free of my psychosis, a question that wounds me to the core. I view my disorder as a part of me that I will never be free from. For me, coping means accepting that my disorders are a part of who I am. Atypical schizophrenia, depression, fibromyalgia. They're all just as much a part of me as my creativity, my bravery and my ability to love.”
The Drs. Fred and Penny Frese Lecture series honors the late Fred Frese, Ph.D., and Penny Frese, Ph.D., by sharing stories of individuals living successfully with schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses and the ways in which their loved ones support their recovery. Peg’s Foundation and the NEOMED Department of Psychiatry Coordinating Centers of Excellence sponsor this lecture annually.
Schizophrenia Awareness Week
In recognition of Schizophrenia Awareness Week (May 22-28) and May as Mental Health Month, the Best Practices in Schizophrenia Treatment Center (BeST Center) and the Department of Psychiatry took the time to bust some myths about schizophrenia. Watch the videos on our YouTube channel
Harry Sivec, Ph.D., clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and senior managing consultant trainer for BeST Center, Department of Psychiatry at Northeast Ohio Medical University, debunks the myth that people with schizophrenia rarely, if ever, get well.
Erik Messamore, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry, debunks the myth that people with schizophrenia are dangerous.
Valerie Kreider, Ph.D., senior consultant trainer in the Best Practices in Schizophrenia Treatment (BeST) Center at NEOMED, debunks the myth that it is impossible to relate to symptoms of psychosis if you have not experienced them yourself.