Bexhill schizophrenia sufferer’s aim to dispel stereotypes of condition

Andrew Voyce with the make-up on as part of the campaign
Andrew Voyce with the make-up on as part of the campaign

A man who has lived with schizophrenia for most of his life has vowed to challenge media stereotypes of the illness.

Andrew Voyce, 64, who lives in Bexhill, believes there is still a great deal of misconception surrounding the mental condition.

Andrew Voyce

Andrew Voyce

He took part in Rethink Mental Illness’ Schizophrenia Awareness Week, a national campaign, to raise awareness, which ran all last week.

As part of the campaign, Andrew gives his story on Rethink’s website.

He said: “I wanted to challenge the media stereotypes with my make-up design. I chose the word ‘nutter’ which is often used to talk about people with schizophrenia, and to make it look like it was on a tabloid I used red and white.

“I’ve been a member with Rethink for a while, volunteering for the charity and I thought it was a good thing to get involved in the filming and photography for the campaign.

“There is most certainly still a stigma attached to schizophrenia and mental illness.”

Andrew said he first became ill with paranoid schizophrenia in his 20s. He also lost a leg in a road accident when he was 17 and his parents divorced around the same time.

He said he spent more than 20 years in and out of the old asylum system with multiple admissions, adding he did not get the help he needed.

“Whenever I was discharged I would avoid having my injections of medication, which would result in me becoming psychotic again. Then I would get returned to hospital, where the same failed cycle would be repeated. On my last admission in 1991 I asked to have my medication by tablet rather than injection. I have taken my tablets every day for the last 20 years, and it’s meant I have not become psychotic or deluded,” he said.

Andrew believes his smoking of cannabis when he was at university triggered his illness.

He said: “I had periods of paranoia at university, such as in lectures and while travelling on public transport. After I stopped smoking cannabis I gradually built up paranoid delusions such as thinking the Russians were coming. I moved from being a relatively fit 17-year-old to being disabled, both physically and mentally.”

Despite the long struggle Andrew has had with schizophrenia, he managed to achieve a BA (Hons) degree from the Open University in politics in 1993 and an MA in social policy from Brighton University in 1998.

Andrew said: “I have the use of my brain back and can say I am in a happy place. People can have a good quality of life.”

About one in 100 people will experience schizophrenia in their lifetime. Many continue to lead normal lives.

The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown. Most experts believe the condition is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Schizophrenia is most often diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 35. It causes a range of different psychological symptoms including hallucinations, delusions, muddled thoughts based on hallucinations or delusions and changes in behaviour.

Visit www.rethink/andrew

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