Mental Health: Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder that often begins in late adolescence or early adulthood. It is an illness of the brain that affects how a person perceives the world, thinks, and behaves. Many people confuse psychosis with violence but they are not the same thing. In fact, people with psychotic disorders like Schizophrenia are much more likely to be the victim of a crime than to commit one. Psychosis means “to break from reality,” and that’s exactly what Schizophrenia is – a mental disorder that causes the individual to have difficulty distinguishing what is real from what is not. Although Schizophrenia is a psychotic illness, psychosis can also occur in other mental disorders, such as: Bipolar Disorder, Depression, or as a result of drug ingestion or Substance Use Disorder.

Individuals with Schizophrenia experience these two categories of symptoms, plus many others. These categories are symptoms based on problems with cognition (delusions) and problems with perceptions (hallucinations):

Belief in something that is not true, even when confronted with proof. The most common delusions are related to persecution, grandiosity, religion, or jealousy.
  • E.g., belief that a group or organization is out to get you; belief that the star of your favourite TV show is speaking directly to you; belief that you are the reincarnation of King Henry VIII; belief that someone you’ve never met is in love with you; belief that someone else is controlling your behaviour.
 What causes Schizophrenia and who is at risk?

Schizophrenia is equally common in men and women, affecting about one percent of the population, although the age of onset is usually about 10 years later in women than men. Some research suggests that women tend to have more paranoid delusions and hallucinations, where as men often experience more negative and disorganized symptoms. 

Schizophrenia is linked to structural and functional abnormalities in the brain. The regions of the brain that control and coordinate thinking, perceptions and behaviours are not functioning properly, making it difficult for people to filter and process information. Frequently, people with Schizophrenia experience the information that comes into their senses as garbled and mixed together. A variety of different neurochemical pathways are involved, including brain pathways that use the chemicals dopamine and serotonin. The limbic system (an area of the brain involved with emotion), the thalamus (which coordinates outgoing messages), the cortex (the part of the brain that is responsible for problem solving and complex thinking) and several other brain regions can all be affected.

Schizophrenia often has a genetic component, although not in all cases. Birth trauma and fetal brain damage in-utero increase the risk for Schizophrenia. Recent research also suggests that significant marijuana use may trigger the onset of Schizophrenia in youth who are at risk for the illness. Individuals who have an immediate family member with Schizophrenia should avoid using marijuana or other drugs.

Does Schizophrenia mean that you have multiple personalities?

No. People with Schizophrenia do not have multiple personalities. This error is perpetuated by errors in mainstream media and likely comes from the fact that Schizophrenia means “split brain”. “Split brain” refers to how the brain splits from reality for people with Schizophrenia, not to split personalities. Dissociative Identity Disorder is the proper diagnosis for someone with apparent multiple personalities. It is a separate and unrelated diagnosis.


Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity. Although many people experience these symptoms occasionally, for someone with ADHD, they are much more severe and disruptive. ADHD impacts a person’s ability to function well in many aspects of their lives, including being at home, at school or work, or with friends.

Although ADHD symptoms are usually present from an early age (and must occur prior to age 12), the disorder often is not diagnosed until someone is in school. This may be because the home environment is often less restrictive than a classroom, where hyperactive and impulsive behaviour is more disruptive and noticeable. However, children with ADHD will experience many difficulties at home or in social situations prior to beginning school.

Why does he or she sometimes seem engaged and focused?

ADHD is often less obvious in activities that require a lot of physical participation (e.g., playing sports) or that are highly enjoyed (e.g., a fun video game). Symptoms usually are most noticeable when the young person is in a group setting that requires quiet attention, or when he or she is working in a really distracting environment.

What can you do if you are concerned that someone you know might have ADHD?

1. Encourage the person to seek help (or take him or her to a trained health professional yourself, if appropriate).

2.  Ask the person a few questions to get a better sense of what is going on:

    • Do you have difficulty paying attention or sitting still?
    • Do you find it hard to remember instructions for assignments or projects?
    • Do you often lose things that you need or that are important?
    • Do you find it really easy to get distracted?
    • Do people often get frustrated with you for interrupting or not waiting your turn?
 What can you do if someone in your life is diagnosed with ADHD?

If someone in your life has been diagnosed with ADHD, here’s what you can do:

  • Be well-informed. Learn everything you can about ADHD and how it may affect the life of the person you care about. Read books, trusted websites and talk to your doctor. Check out Evidence Based Medicine for information on how to critically evaluate the information you read and Communicating With Your Health Care Provider for a list of questions to ask your health care provider.
  • Remember that someone with ADHD has difficulty paying attention or sitting still, it’s not that he or she doesn’t want to do so. This is because of differences in the way their brain works, not because he or she is trying to cause trouble. Try to limit the frequency of negative comments and avoid comments about “bad behaviour” unless it’s apparent that he or she is intentionally misbehaving. It can be really frustrating and upsetting for someone with ADHD when his or her disorder is confused with misbehaviour.
  • Try not to decrease his or her self-esteem by focusing only on problem areas. Make sure you also notice and support his or her strengths and accomplishments.
  • If you know someone who has been diagnosed with ADHD, he or she should also be assessed for learning problems as learning disabilities are more common in children with ADHD.
 What treatment options exist?

A variety of treatment options exist for ADHD. Successful treatment for ADHD improves school and work function, family and peer relationships, and decreases risk of traffic accidents and substance abuse. Determining which course of action is appropriate for each individual should be done with the guidance of a health professional who is knowledgeable about effective treatment options. Options include:

  • Medication: Medication is the most effective treatment for ADHD symptoms, as it helps the brain function the way it should. Common medications include stimulants and some types of antidepressants. For more information on how to properly use medications, check out MedEd.
  • Social Skills Training: Many children and teenagers with ADHD have social problems due to their impulsivity and hyperactivity. Social Skills Training helps them learn and practice positive ways of interacting with other people.
  • Learning Modifications/Adaptations: Often, making changes to the persons’ learning environment can be a big help. Examples include providing quieter places to work, allowing homework to be done in small amounts over an extended period of time, breaking tasks down into manageable chunks, etc.
  • Parental Behaviour Training: Children and teenagers with ADHD often benefit most from particular parenting techniques that their parents can learn how to use. Parental Behaviour Training helps parents better understand ADHD and how it impacts their child in order to parent in a way that will be most beneficial for someone with ADHD.
  • School supports: Sometimes certain adaptations can be made by the school to assist a student in coping with and managing his or her symptoms.
  • Community supports: Community supports can include peer support groups for teenagers, support groups for families, and other helpful resources.
  • For help maintaining the kind of healthy lifestyle that should accompany professional treatment, encourage your teenager or friend to check out Taking Charge of Your Health.

Remember, all treatments have the same goals: decrease symptoms and improve functioning; decrease risk of relapse; and promote recovery. Think about it this way: Get well; Stay well; Be well.

Blind Computer Scientist

Blind computer scientist makes the impossible possible

2015-09-17 21:00

Tammy Petersen, News24

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Rynhardt Kruger (Tammy Petersen, News24)


Cape Town – Rynhardt Kruger’s fingers glide swiftly across the screen as he accesses his messages on his smartphone. But instead of focusing on the handset, he listens to a voice reading the icons he hovers over.

Kruger may be blind, but he points out that the inability to see does not mean he has to be left behind by advances in information technology.

The 25-year-old student is the first blind person at Stellenbosch University to obtain both his BSc honours and master’s degrees in computer science and is currently pursuing a PhD with a special focus on assistive technology.

“This is any technology that a disabled person can use to accomplish things which a non-disabled person can do,” he explained.

“When discussing information technology, people often describe how it made their lives more convenient or how they can instantly communicate with anyone, anywhere in the world. Not often discussed, though, is how advances in information technology make the lives of people with disabilities a bit easier.”

Kruger, who was born blind, said he initially wanted to make music his career.

“I played the piano and the violin – well, I tried – until my parents made the mistake of giving me a computer in Grade 7,” he joked. “In the beginning, I got lost in the start menu.”

Fascination with technology

But this didn’t end his fascination with technology. Kruger, who uses a screen reader that reads content from the screen out loud, was later introduced to audio games but instead of playing them, he was more interested in how they were created.

“I bugged people to get me books about programming and also managed to get one at my school library. The only problem was it had been published in 1969. Nevertheless, I borrowed it.”

In Grade 10 he started attending afternoon computer classes at a nearby mainstream school and decided that he wanted to make this his career.

People are surprised by the ease with which he uses technology, Kruger said.
“I am often asked how I use a computer and whether I have a special keyboard. To a large degree I use a computer in the same way as anyone else.

“In my case a special keyboard is unnecessary. Since the normal keyboard layout stays the same, one only has to memorise it once.”

For his Honours project, Kruger designed a computer programme that allows blind musicians to study music on a computer.

Developed programme for blind users

Last year, for his Master’s degree, he helped develop a programme for blind users that enabled independent navigation through virtual worlds.

“I used a computer extensively during my studies, for writing assignments and reading all course material. This included slides and articles, but also textbooks and even exam papers.

“This is easy when the material is textual in nature, since text is typically encoded in a standard way, and can be easily read by a screen reader,” he explained.

“However, my studies also required me to read and write mathematical content. It does not have a standard digital encoding, and therefore screen readers at the time had considerable difficulty in reading it.”

Kruger explained he was fortunate that all his lecturers were LaTeX users, a system whereby mathematical content and other scientific documents can be written using only textual conventions.
Once completing his studies, he plans to go into computer research.

“I am really interested in focusing on assistive technology. In South Africa, studies into this field are really limited. The barrier for a blind person in all spheres of life is accessibility of information.

“New technology doesn’t only make things more convenient for people with disabilities, but also makes the impossible possible.”

George Redhawk creating looping GIFs

This artist creates beautiful looping GIFs even though he’s legally blind

According to The Creators Project, George lost his sight suddenly, which left his life and career in shambles. In a bid to take in all the beauty in the world that he could while he was still able to see, George created these breathtaking images.

George has Charles Bonnet syndrome which causes those who have lost a lot of their vision to have “visual hallucinations” and see things that aren’t really there says

His work is called The World Through My Eyes as he feels the morphing still motion is a rather apt way of conveying his view of the world. And isn’t that what art is all about after all?

Have a look at these. They will blow your mind.

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Original art by Bojan Jevtic   +Bojan Jevtic

.gif The RedHawk EFX by George RedHawk (

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original art: “Nice To Meet You” by Werner Hornung in Paris

.gif animation by George RedHawk (

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Original painting by Tomasz Alen Kopera

color editing & .gif animation by George RedHawk (

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“Light Is Time”

A collaboration between Citizen watch & Tsuyoshi Tane (DGT)
.gif animation by George RedHawk (

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Original art by Federico Bebber

Morph .gif animation by George RedHawk (

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Yvonne Reichmuth, leather accessories designer_YVY
.gif animated photo by

Check out all of George’s artwork on his Google+ page