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For week ended October 10, 1999 Posted 17 Oct 1999

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Utahn no longer hears the 'voices'

Summarized by Eric Bunker

Utahn no longer hears the 'voices'
Deseret News 8Oct99 P2
By Dennis Romboy: Deseret News staff writer

This very long article focuses in on the plight of the mentally ill in Utah, more specifically those that suffer with schizophrenia. It uses as an illustration, the life experience of 23 year old Mark Johnson, a fellow sufferer, who is now serving a church service mission at Welfare Square in Salt Lake City.

Much has transpired in the mild-mannered life of Mark since he was diagnosed seven years ago. Medication now keeps his schizophrenia in check. There is no known cure but most schizophrenic people respond to drug therapy, with many leading productive and fulfilling lives. New and more effective drug therapies are on the horizon and a more complete biological understanding of the causal brain deformity is emerging from research.

However, without his medication, Mark is paranoid and life appears as a big movie. Carrying on a conversation with him is like talking to a compact disc player that skips, often making no sense. Without his medication, he obsesses with colors, hears voices, and claims that other specific people are with him, such as a deceased singer, Jim Morrison.

Speaking about the improvement of his condition when on his medication, Mark says, "It's like I have better concept of reality. I have better picture of myself and what I'm doing. I can read a book and know it's not about me.

Mark is one of an estimated 22,000 Utahns who suffer from schizophrenia. There are many stigmas associated with psychological disorders and the affected face many hurdles in trying to assimilate in society. Mental heath sufferers find out quickly that physical ailments typically draw sympathy from the general public, but mental disorders more often than not, bring distrust and disdain.

"When it's psychological illness, you don't want to tell anyone because you don't know how they're going to respond. And when you do (tell), you know why you didn't" want to, said Debra Salvo, director of client support services at Utah based Valley Mental Health

Schizophrenia is an often-inherited disabling and emotionally devastating brain disease that has long been misunderstood. Like cancer and diabetes, schizophrenia is strictly a biological illness. It is not a split personality or MVP, a rare condition caused by significant childhood trauma. Sufferers are generally no more violet to others than the general popultion. However, it is not so true with themselves with most having at least one attempted sucide when off the medication. The disease is relatively common, with an estimated 1 percent to 1.5 percent of Americans being diagnosed with it. Utah follows that rate having 1.1 percent of the population diagnosed with the illness. Three-fourths of those who develop the disorder are between ages 16 and 25.

Johnson, 23, of Centerville Utah, is doing so well. He reads scriptures each morning before putting in an eight-hour shift driving a forklift and stocking shelves at Welfare Square. When his mission concludes in November, Mark hopes to attend college. As a certified nurse's aide, he's not sure what hell study but he definitely plans to take some psychology classes. He also has desires to get married and have a family.

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Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information