RAISEing Expectations

I use the “asset model” approach to interacting with others when I create their resumes and help them with career assessment.

It’s possible a lot of people focus on deficits even today. I don’t think that’s helpful or useful. The RAISE study results are revealed on Tuesday. They’re going to blow up ideas about how to treat people with first-episode schizophrenia.

I’m wary, because of how I was treated. I had a BA in English. I graduated with a 3.66 GPA out of a 4.0. I had been a disc jockey on the FM radio for two years.

Then I’m diagnosed and suddenly the focus was on symptoms and deficits, not on using my strengths and my personality to recover. Fixing a weakness is not an effective strategy. Maximizing a strength creates a real solution.

I got diagnosed in fall 1987, and suddenly it was like I was viewed as a “schizophrenic,” not as Chris Bruni. It seemed I had no treatment options other than the cookie-cutter day program I was slotted into.

Here’s the deal about the RAISE study:

Getting the right treatment right away often enables a person to take a lower dose of medication. I took only 5 mg of Stelazine for the first 16 years.

This is a fact that people are going to use in their own agenda against taking any kind of medication. Yet the fact remains it’s possible to take a low dose when you get treated early like I was. I tell this like it is because when you’re not foggily doped up you can have fewer side effects, thus enjoy a better recovery.

The Geodon I started taking in 2007 has been a miracle drug in this regard. It’s my contention that Geodon is a fine drug–better than Zyprexa in terms of its metabolic profile.

Risperdal and Zyprexa should be the last resort, not the first choice if you ask me. I can’t tell people what to do–I can’t give advice. Different people have different experiences with different drugs.

Yet I’m simply making the case that the quicker you’re treated the better the options are that you have. The quicker you get the right treatment you have a better chance at having a great life.

I could’ve become yet another casualty of a mental health system. I got out because I fought for my rights. Now I’m willing to fight for other people to be accorded dignity via the right to have a job, a career, a home of our own, friends and if we so choose a lover.

The idea that I had to fight for my rights–that people today still have to fight for better treatment–it’s wrong. Our rights should have been ours to assert all along; freely endorsed and accepted by mental health staff. We shouldn’t have to drop kick people to give us the rights they took away.

I’ve lived in recovery 28 years. It took 28 years for the RAISE study to come along proving that getting the right treatment right away results in a better recovery outcome.

The door is now open. We must lead ourselves and our treatment providers through it. To educate comes from the Latin for “to lead out” of.

We must lead. We must speak out. The time is now.

Author: Chris Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Left of the Dial. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. As well as an author and activist, Bruni is an artist and athlete.

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