Schizophrenia, has long been associated with stigma. The motivation to remove this stigma is what inspired the Schizophrenia Oral History Project. The founders of this project began with a tool more commonly used among sociologists and anthropologists: oral history. Using this approach to examine schizophrenia has changed Dr. Crane’s own perspective about a disease she thought she knew well.
“People with schizophrenia do not lose their individuality, even when the illness is very severe,” Dr. Crane said recently in the New York Times. “What I discovered through oral history is that it’s not about schizophrenia. It’s about a complexity of life that is very hard to get at any other way.”
Much of the information about schizophrenia has been written by people who do not carry the diagnosis. The Schizophrenia Oral History Project collects the stories of those with schizophrenia, and compiles them to help the public hear about the lives of individuals with schizophrenia from those who have suffered from it.
Lynda Crane, Ph.D., and Tracy McDonough, Ph.D., professors of psychology at the College of Mount St. Joseph, began their work on this project as a way to present the life stories of people living with schizophrenia, and sharing their stories as a way to promote public understanding of it.
“Historically, there is perhaps no group of people more stigmatized than those with mental illness, and this is especially true for those with schizophrenia,” Crane said. “These stories provide a window into their world and perspective.”
“It’s the shared humanity illuminated by life stories and the ability to listen to the emotion in people’s voices as they talk about their lives that helps us to connect with others,” McDonough said. “It’s through this connection that hearts and minds can be changed.”
Crane and McDonough have compiled 22 narrators’ stories over the past two years.
Although there are many stories about the disorders themselves, Crane and McDonough’s project is the only known schizophrenia oral history project. “We’re really breaking new ground,” Crane said. “This is the first archiving of their life stories.”
Until recently, they had also not sought any funding for their project. However, in October 2013, they were awarded a $500 grant from Interact for Health, formerly the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati.