Episode 40: Ashley Smith

Schizophrenia. What does this label stir in your mind?

I had to examine my own prejudgements when planning this episode. In my early 20s I had the experience of seeing someone suffer with schizophrenia, who was swiftly sectioned. I ended our relationship, primarily as my Mum was terminally ill at the time and I decided I needed to be there for her in entirety, but also because I was terrified of the condition.

All I knew about schizophrenia stemmed from this experience and, to be frank, stories I've consumed from the media associating schizophrenia with violent crime. Just one of the many misconceptions about the condition.

It is (thankfully) becoming much more socially acceptable to say you suffer with depression or anxiety, but we are not yet there with schizophrenia. Going public with the condition can lead to discrimination in housing, employment, social networks and more aspects of life.

When I found Ashley Smith's blog I was fascinated to learn more about the actual lived experience of someone with schizophrenia. She is a powerful voice in a field of very few public voices. People are scared to speak up about their history for fear of discrimination and judgement.

Ashley is a lived experience expert on this condition, having had two 'breaks' of hospitalisation and one of incarceration. Now, after a decade, she maintains her wellness and is living proof that recovery and a full life and healthy relationships are entirely possible.

Ashley is an author, speaker, mother and passionate advocate for recovery and breaking down each stigma piece by piece. She knows first-hand all about the fears, the fight and the surprising successes of living with mental illness.

In this conversation we talk about:

· Ashley's memories of her first breakdown and incarceration

· Dispelling the many myths about schizophrenia

· The change needed in public understanding and acceptance of the condition

· Ashley's learnt coping skills and recovery strategies, especially post-crisis planning

· Writing projects and growing a peer community

Listen from this Friday 8am GMT on Soundcloud, Stitcher, iTunes, TuneIn and all the usual apps. If you share any episode with your wider network please make it this one!

A huge thanks to Ashley for sharing her story.

Show notes

Ashley featured in a documentary, Living with Schizophrenia: A Call for Hope and Recovery

Ashley's book: What’s On My Mind?

Ashley's blog: Overcoming Schizophrenia

The National Alliance for Mental Illness

Georgia Mental Health Network

National Breast Cancer Foundation

Clubhouse International (directory of clubhouse support centres for schizophrenia)

Motivational talk by Eric Thomas

Motivational talk by TD Jakes

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