Changing Perceptions—Key to Hope, Treatment, and Opportunity
"We can't be everywhere, yet people with the diagnosis are everywhere!" Nearly nine million Americans suffer from schizophrenia and other illnesses involving psychoses. Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA) is the "we" working to make a difference in the lives of those diagnosed and their families.
Linda Stalters, a retired Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Psychotherapist, began the organization in 2008. SARDAA promotes hope, treatment, and recovery through support programs, education, collaboration, and advocacy. Their vision is that every person living with a schizophrenia or related brain disorder receives respect, appropriate treatment, and an opportunity to live a meaningful and satisfying life in a compassionate community free of discrimination.
A key to bringing about that vision is changing perceptions on several levels:
Helping policy makers understand the condition as a brain disease rather than as a mental illness. The distinction has a huge impact on accessibility to treatment, which can enable persons with the disease to have productive life.
Helping society overcome fear and move toward seeing persons with the disease as people who deserve treatment and respect rather than punishment. Currently, many affected live in prisons or on the streets, which is a significant cost to society.
Helping family members know how to better relate to the one with the disease and how to advocate for their loved one.
Helping those who suffer from the disease understand and value themselves and be supported.
Volunteers assist in reaching these goals. They do so as speakers and educators, as videographers and artists, as advocates to state and national policy-making bodies, as organizers of new groups and as mentors to the leaders of support groups (which are led by persons who have the disease and who are themselves volunteers). Volunteers are also needed for simply saying "thank you" through notes or phone calls to supporters of the organization's work. In turn, the organization's small staff support the volunteers with training, materials, and a voice in this important work.
Linda says, "Whenever I think I might quit or when people ask, 'When are you going to retire for real?', I remember that people who live with the disease can't ever retire. I hear thanks for what we do. Those affected say, 'I am so grateful for this organization because it saved my life!'—and I can't quit!" For more information, visit sardaa.org or hearingvoicesofsupport.com.