October 10, 2014, 8:12 am
By Amy Standen
On Oct. 10, through a partnership between The Carter Center and PsychCentral.com, dozens of bloggers will participate in the fourth annual blog party, publishing their thoughts about mental health in observance of World Mental Health Day.
Guest blogger Amy Standen, a reporter for KQED public radio in northern California and a 2013-2014 recipient of a Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism, produced a three-part series on schizophrenia and emerging treatments.
I met Frankie Moreno last July when I was reporting a public radio story about young people with schizophrenia, as part of a Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism.
It was a spectacular San Diego day, and staff with the Kickstart program, a mental health intervention program for teens and young adults, had taken a handful of clients and their families to the seashore to fly kites.
Handsome and soft spoken, Frankie was looked up to by the younger kids. He had a quiet self-assurance that drew people in. But when photographer Marvi Lacar and I went to his house the next day to meet his family, we learned his confidence and ease were hard won.
Frankie’s story is one you do not hear often in news stories about mental health. At 18, he developed psychotic symptoms that threatened to destroy him. Late at night, sleepless and pacing, he was terrorized by loud, aggressive male voices that threatened his family and told him to hurt himself. One night, Frankie gouged his forearm with a screwdriver. He believed only the pain could save his family and expel the voices.
Then — here is the part you do not hear often — Frankie got better. Through a program in San Diego called Kickstart, he received two years of wrap-around mental health care services. Counselors paid home visits and made sure he got outside. His entire family received an education in mental wellness through bi-monthly, multi-family group sessions. Frankie got into boxing and spent time with peers who had been through similar straits. As his body got healthier, his mind did too.
All of this was provided free of charge thanks to California’s Mental Health Services Act, which places a one percent tax on personal income over a million dollars to fund mental health care services, including prevention.
Frankie’s mother, Elisabeth, experienced psychotic symptoms herself a decade ago. For years, she was too ashamed to talk about what she went through. She believed God was punishing her. The Kickstart sessions helped strip away the shame about what she and her son had gone through.
Sometimes Frankie still hears strange sounds, like whispers or footsteps. But when this happens, he knows how to take care of himself, reduce stress, and get more sleep. His horizon is wide open. He is a person living with schizophrenia, but not defined by it.
In His Own Words | Watch the video below to hear Frankie Moreno, 25, describe his personal battle with schizophrenia and how he manages it today.