CCC students experience schizophrenia first hand

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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Imagine hearing voices inside your head for 24-hours. Well, one nursing instructor has her class experience it for an hour to better understand schizophrenia.

CCC students in their mental health class

Students in Meredith Smith's class had to perform daily tasks while dealing with schizophrenic symptoms. The girls used iPods while writing the Star Spangled Banner and making their way through campus.

"This entire time you're hearing voices and sounds. They may be yelling at you or calling you names or making just weird, short, screeching noises," said Meredith Smith, a CCC mental health instructor.

But for one student, it wasn't the daily tasks that was the hardest part, it was trying to socialize.

"You don't look people in the eye because you're so concentrated on what's going. You can't even answer questions. You're always asking, what? What'd you say? To hear those questions. That's the hardest part I think," said Holly Petzoldt, a CCC nursing student.

Students are leaving with more than just a headache. They're also taking away compassion.

"Show more empathy towards these people. You know, when we're sitting there one-on-one with a someone with schizophrenia, we can relate to them, we know what they're dealing with, we know what voices are going on inside their mind," said Hannah Paulson, a CCC nursing student.

And that's exactly what Smith hoped for.

''I want them to look at mental illness the same way they look at any other nursing practice. Convey the same amount of compassion and empathy for mental illness as they do for people with cardiovascular disease or oncology, illness is illness," said the mental health instructor.

75-percent of the people diagnosed with schizophrenia are between 16 and 25. And half of them are undiagnosed.