Schizophrenia: An illness, not a crime

By Kevin Dow

There is a mental illness that people don't seem to understand: Schizophrenia. this seems to be the most misunderstood illness that there is. I'm writing this to inform you that schizophrenia is an illness, not a crime. Too many people, including mental health workers, consider it a crime to be schizophrenic.

Symptoms of this illness include hallucinations, paranoid thoughts, feelings of being persecuted, and worst of all, explosive tempers. This is just a few of them.

I've suffered with schizophrenia since I was a child. My parents didn't understand this illness and tried to have me put in jail back in the 1970s. I didn't realize what I was doing back then and to this day, the problems still bother me. The problem didn't involve drugs or alcohol, it was illness.

Back in 1987, I came dangerously close to being thrown in jail. Police action was used against me and believe me, that was a change I couldn't adjust to. Doctors and mental health workers treated me the same way my parents did. My former therapist told me that she would call the police to arrest me if I had one more upset in public. Before 1987, people were supportive of my illness, but something happened that year which changed everything.

When people see a temper outburst in public, they should call the mental health center instead of the police.

Let me ask you this: Would you throw a diabetic in jail if he/she had an insulin reaction? Would you throw a person in jail for epileptic seizures? They why do it to a paranoid schizophrenic?

I'm not proud of my illness. It's something I wish had a cure to it. Just because I have schizophrenia doesn't make me a dangerous person. I do my best to be nice to many people. Symptoms of this illness don't often show in me, but occasionally, they do.

It's high time for people to understand schizophrenia and realize that it's not an illness to be considered dangerous. People who suffer from this should be treated with respect. I get along well with people here in Camden and Rockport. When I go to Rockland, that's when the trouble starts. Recently, the police confronted me for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A woman from human services accused me of staring at her and she called the police for nothing.

This misunderstanding of mental illness has got to stop. I'm sorry these things happen in public, but it's caused by my schizophrenia, not drugs or alcohol.

Psychiatrists and mental health workers need to understand this, too. I have respect for them, but they need to have respect for me. Stop using police action against me when I show signs of my illness.

That is my opinion of this issue. Out of fairness, I welcome any opinions you people might have.

Kevin Dow lives in Camden.