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Why We Need to Stop Believing People Who Experience Psychosis Are Dangerous

With all the recent campaigns to end the stigma of mental health problems, I am hoping that one part, in particular, will see the end of discrimination.

Recently, I was referred to a team where I live that helps people who experience difficulties with their mental health such as hallucinations, distressing beliefs and feelings of paranoia and suspicion, also known as psychosis. I have experienced quite a few of these symptoms for a few years. In my previous home, I would see the silhouette of a man at the bottom of the stairs, and hear a voice coming from the kitchen sink. Once, when my daughter had just been born, I was convinced there were cameras in her room watching and listening in on me.

Lately, some of my delusions are becoming more frequent, or I have new ones altogether. I have a voice that sometimes laughs as I fall asleep, and my main visual who is called “Cannon.”

I told all this to the lady who ran my assessment the other day. And she said something which resonated with me and subsequently urged me to write my story: psychosis is not talked about enough. I went home after and did a little research and I found that it is highly stigmatized, with preconceptions that we are dangerous.

Psychosis is used as a treacherous plotline in soap operas, or as a twisted character in a psychological thriller. Why are people with psychosis perceived as dangerous? Aside from the fictional media representations, people who live with psychosis are not acknowledged, as if we are invisible. It may be uncomfortable to listen to, but trust me: it’s even worse to live with.

Due to the media (mostly) portraying people with psychosis as dangerous, this has earned us a reputation as unsafe people to be around, and usually the idea that, even if we “appear” safe, we will inevitably “snap” one day, like it’s in our DNA. We are shown as losing ourselves to our abnormal thinking patterns and we will hurt ourselves and our loved ones because of our delusions, and that’s the way we deal with it.

I am sharing my very personal story as a way of bringing to light how difficult it is for those with psychosis to receive this stigma without even deserving it. Get to know the person behind the psychosis. Yes, I see and hear things that aren’t there. I might fear it sometimes; I might need to take time for my self-care, but I can say with certainty that I wouldn’t put myself or anyone I know in harm’s way because of my psychosis, and I’m sure others with this condition will agree (if it applies to them of course). I might flinch, but so would you if you heard a sudden voice shout right next to your ear. I might close my eyes, but I’m sure you would if you’d seen someone who isn’t real in your house. I might worry, but never for anyone’s safety. I don’t need to.

Yes, some people struggle quite badly with particularly distressing symptoms, but nobody with psychosis needs to hear false statements that they are always dangerous — it makes us less likely to talk about it to people who can really help us.

Photo by Carolina Heza on Unsplash