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'Living with Schizophrenia' documentary premiers

May 12, 2011
by News release
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Titusville, N.J. — Janssen, Division of Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., has announced the world premiere of "Living with Schizophrenia: A Call for Hope and Recovery," a half-hour documentary film that tells the story of three people who are living meaningful lives with schizophrenia, a chronic and potentially disabling brain disorder.

The film sets out to increase understanding and to reduce the fear and stigma often associated with this mental health condition. About one percent of the U.S. adult population and approximately 24 million people globally are living with schizophrenia.

"'Living with Schizophrenia' highlights the stories that don't make the headlines—the stories of hope and promise," said Emily Abt, award-winning filmmaker and director of the film. "My grandmother struggled with schizophrenia, and making this documentary gave me new insights about what it is like to have this illness and overcome the obstacles in life that it presents."

In the film, viewers journey with three individuals with schizophrenia to experience their daily struggles, personal insights, paths to the mental health recovery process, and the impact their illness has had on those who love them. "Living with Schizophrenia" delves into the lives of Rebecca, who spent a decade blaming herself for her diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and is now actively involved in her treatment process; Ashley, who, after finding effective treatment for her schizophrenia, returned to school and created a blog to share her story with others; and Joshua, who was in and out of psychiatric hospitals for six years and now, following his path of mental health recovery, is dedicated to helping others living with the illness.

Rebecca began to feel different in her mid-teens with increased introspection and feelings of paranoia and sadness. In the film, she shares how she at first denied the illness and started to lose connections with her family and friends. She also discusses the difficulty she had focusing in college and how her first hospitalization was the result of a suicide attempt.

Through the support of her mother, who also appears in the film, Rebecca started to accept the illness, rather than let it define her. She now writes a blog for her hometown paper The Topeka Capital-Journal entitled "Heart of Topeka: People Who Care," and advocates for others with schizophrenia through letters to the editor and social media.

"I would say to people who are struggling with schizophrenia, just like me, to know that you are not alone and there is hope," said Rebecca.

Ashley experienced an onset of symptoms during college at a time of immense personal change and stress. The symptoms got progressively worse and she often heard voices telling her she was a dishonor to her family. Ashley was diagnosed with schizophrenia during her stay at a state hospital after serving time in jail for committing a crime.

She initially refused medication, but with the support of her family, friends, and psychiatrist, who told her that she could live a fulfilling life, Ashley has accepted the illness and is now involved in her own path to mental health recovery and committed to supporting others. Ashley serves as a peer mentor in Atlanta at rehabilitation centers, county mental health centers, and transitional housing; is the author of a blog, "Overcoming Schizophrenia"; and serves as founder and executive director of Embracing My Mind, Inc. (EMM), a nonprofit support group that she founded, which helps others living with schizophrenia. She currently attends college at Georgia State University and aspires to manage a wellness center. Joshua was enjoying his teenage years when he started to become paranoid that his friends were talking about him behind his back. He began to feel they were plotting against him and he could not get their voices out of his head. After checking into an adolescent treatment center at age 17, Joshua was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Because of his lack of insight into his illness at that time, he rejected treatment.

Today, Joshua cites treatment and the love and support of his father for saving his life and helping set him on a path toward recovery. Joshua is a certified peer specialist with NAMI and runs a support group for individuals with schizophrenia at a local county jail. Though he once saw his diagnosis as a life sentence, he now cites his schizophrenia as the difference in his life, from seeing the world in black and white and seeing the world in color.

Rebecca, Ashley, and Joshua are joined in the film by their families and experts in schizophrenia, including community-based psychiatrist Rebecca Roma, MD, medical director of the Community Treatment Team at Mercy Behavioral Health in Pittsburgh, Pa.; Xavier Amador, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder and director of the LEAP Institute; and, Dave, president of the Georgia chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Throughout the film, they share their perspectives and reinforce the message of hope and self-acceptance for people living with schizophrenia.

"By sharing the powerful stories of Rebecca, Ashley, and Joshua, we can work to reduce the fear and reduce the stigma, just like we've done with so many other issues over the years," said Dr. Roma. "Deep down inside, we're all people with different struggles and I learn from my patients every day about the power of perseverance and hope."

For more information about "Living with Schizophrenia" or to view the film, visit


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