There are not many organizations out there that focus on empowering college students with a chronic illness, especially those that focus on symptoms of schizophrenia. That’s why when I heard about the upcoming nonprofit Students With Schizophrenia (SWS), I was so excited to know that there is an organization specifically focused on helping those of us on the spectrum.
I reached out to the founder and CEO, Cecilia McGough, for an interview. SWS is “the only organization worldwide focused on empowering college students who have schizophrenia.” I was lucky enough to chat with her and learn more about this upcoming nonprofit.
You can read the interview with the founder below:
What inspired you to found SWS?
“It has been thought of that I have had schizophrenia all of my life. However, it became more prevalent during my junior and senior year of high school and sort of snowballed into college. The symptoms of my schizophrenia and accompanying mental illnesses started to get in the way of my education.
After being officially diagnosed during my sophomore year of college, I started to research resources that can help me and my education because I still struggled with schizophrenic symptoms even after medication. I was shocked actually that there was not already an organization out there focused on empowering college students who have schizophrenia especially since the peak age to have a psychotic break is early adulthood, the same age range as the typical college student.
After some time, I decided to do something about this by founding the nonprofit SWS to empower college students who have schizophrenia and their families globally.”
How does being diagnosed with schizophrenia make it harder for college students to succeed?
“The National Education Association reports that 47% of adults living with schizophrenia drop out of college. This drastically limits the career options of a person who has schizophrenia and their financial contribution to society with unemployment rates varying but seen as high as 20%. Each person’s experience and story is unique. The illness has a wide variety of both positive and negative symptoms.
Positive symptoms do not mean that these symptoms are necessarily pleasant but rather means that these symptoms are added to or distorts the individual’s functions such as hallucinations, delusions, and/or scattered or racing thoughts. As with the negative symptoms, these are symptoms that are taking attributes away from the individual’s functions such as a lack of motivation, isolation, and the inability to plan and follow through on tasks. These are but a few of the types of positive and negative symptoms.
With that said, both positive and negative symptoms can make it difficult to impossible for a student with schizophrenic symptoms to complete their education in a traditional school setting. However, with the correct amount of both medical and academic assistance, the student’s ability to complete their education increases substantially, and it is SWS’s purpose to either direct resources or supply this assistance to those in need.”
How will your organization help college students with schizophrenic symptoms?
“SWS is a nonprofit that will empower college students who have schizophrenia and their families globally through support, outreach, and services. Support efforts are not meant to replace direct professional mental health care or legal advising but rather serve for both mental health and legal resource direction and educational purposes. Students With Schizophrenia’s outreach will help:
- Spread awareness
- Create communities by founding clubs on college campuses, partnering with organizations, and sponsoring independent events.
Students With Schizophrenia’s services will focus on financial, academic, and career assistance for students who have schizophrenia and their families.”
Is there anything you’d like to say to current college students diagnosed with schizophrenia?
“My message to current college students diagnosed with schizophrenia is that they are not alone. There are 51 million people in the world with schizophrenia. That is 1.1% of the world’s population over the age of eighteen. Do not let your mental illness define you, and do not let anyone, including yourself, limit your capabilities because of your diagnosis. There will be obstacles. There will be hardship. I am not saying that it will be easy; what I am saying is not to give up on yourself or your dreams. You have the power to become the best version of you. Don’t let anyone take that away.”
About the Author:
August Blair is the founder of Survival is a Talent. She is a freelance writer and blogger. She is passionate about health and wellness, social issues, and the environment. She studies at The University of North Georgia.