We really don’t know what goes on in the mind of someone who suffers from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression unless we face mental illness ourselves. And it’s definitely not a topic we generally talk about, especially within the Black community.
Journalist Anderson Cooper hoped to understand mental illness by taking part in an “exercise in empathy,” where he wore a simulator that replicated the symptoms of a schizophrenic while he worked in the office and walked the streets of NYC for one day.
The constant voices in his earpiece ranged from quiet hisses and whispers to aggressive screams. At times, Cooper says he wants to yell back because he can’t concentrate. He also says the voices made him feel isolated from those around him.
Anderson describes schizophrenia – based on his experience from the simulator – as having a chorus watching and commenting on every little thing that you do. Below is a sample from the simulator:
Of course, this was only an experiment and Cooper could turn off the voices whenever he wanted. But psychologist and schizophrenia activist Eleanor Longden lives with it daily. Diagnosed with schizophrenia as a college freshman, hospitalized, and heavily medicated, Longden also describes helplessness and alienation from those who couldn’t and wouldn’t understand her condition.
She discusses her diagnosis during her “Voices in my Head” TED Talk.