One of my goals in teaching the abnormal psychology chapter in the General Psychology course is to focus less on symptoms and etiology and more on what it is like to live with a psychological disorder. In 2016 I wrote about an assignment tied to the Stigma Fighters website.
This website “is an archive of life stories of persons with schizophrenia. Our narrators are women and men with schizophrenia who are sharing their lives in an effort to increase understanding and reduce stigma related to mental illness. Their stories reveal not only their struggles, but their remarkable courage and resilience, their hopes, dreams and talents, and their concern for others. In addition to documenting their histories, we are sharing their stories in presentations for professionals and the general public.”
At the time of this writing, 38 people have shared their stories.
As an assignment, ask students to read three stories and identify the similarities they find amongst the stories and the biggest differences. At the end of the assignment, ask students to reflect on what they learned from reading the stories. In class, give students an opportunity to speak with each other in small groups to share what they learned. Invite groups to report out to the class.
Pro-tip from my Highline College colleague Ruth Frickle: for the first time out with this assignment, go through the stories yourself to identify ten or so your students can choose from. That will make the number you need to be familiar with manageable. As you use this assignment from term to term, expand the number of stories as you feel comfortable.