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Schizophrenia in focus: ‘Jesus told me to go to prison and men made me strip’

PUBLISHED: 10:31 21 October 2014 | UPDATED: 10:31 21 October 2014

Miquel Tomlinson says ending the stigma of having a mental health condition will mean more people will get the help they need. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Miquel Tomlinson says ending the stigma of having a mental health condition will mean more people will get the help they need. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

It was five years ago that Archway resident Miquel Tomlinson first started hearing voices telling her to self-harm.

Aged 19 at the time, they surfaced not long after a childhood spent in and out of foster care.

Taken from her family aged just five, one of the few memories was having “gentleman callers” come into her room and demand she strip off in front of them.

“They wouldn’t touch, but would just look,” Miquel recalls.

“But I think that start to life may have had an impact on what’s happened to me over the past five years.”

It was around the same time she was reacquainted with aspects of her past that the first signs of schizophrenia materialised.

The condition, one of the most common mental illnesses, was this year’s theme for World Mental Health Day, which took place earlier this month.

Miquel, now 24, used the day to share her story with the Gazette in the hope that the stigma will end and people will be more educated about mental health.

“The problems for me seemed to start when I met up with members of my family again,” she continues. “They told me I should find and talk to Jesus.

“I then started hearing his voice in my head, telling me to do things. After a while I also started to hallucinate, seeing Jesus on a cross.”

“I just remember Jesus telling me I should go to prison.”

Refusing to accept she may have a mental illness, her condition was left undiagnosed and Miquel was left to follow her voices.

Taking a weight bar from an ex-boyfriend’s house, she smashed it through the front door of a friend’s house.

“I was sent to prison for two months,” she says. “And when I was in my cell the voices continued and I started hearing Satan.

“It was when he told me to put my head on a hotplate that I was first diagnosed and sent for care.”

Inflicting burns on her head, she spent eight months in hospital in Manchester for treatment.

So great was the stigma surrounding the long-term illness, she said, that she refused medication.

“I didn’t want to believe I was ill so I didn’t seek help,” she said. “I was so upset when the diagnosis was made.

“I thought I was just going through some temporary breakdown. It took a while for it to sink in and for me to accept treatment.

“I still hear the voices, but now I’m on medication it’s more under control. I don’t know if it’ll ever go away entirely.”

Miquel says she has finally come to terms with her condition and a move to Archway saw her meet current nurse, and now close friend, Aimee Robertson.

“She is brilliant,” she says. “She’s really caring and took her time to get to know me properly. I genuinely feel really close to her.

“I hope my story will encourage people to seek help when they need it, and not wait.

“And if people are hearing voices, my advice is to only listen to the ones telling you to do good.”

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a long-term illness affecting 24million people worldwide.

The exact cause is unknown but most experts believe the condition is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, muddled thoughts and changes in behaviour.

It is one of the most common serious mental health conditions with about one in 100 experiencing some form of the illness in their lifetime.

Doctors usually treat it with a combination of medication and therapy.

For more information on support available, visit candi.nhs.uk.

For confidential emotional support in a crisis, contact the Samaritans around the clock on 08457 90 90 90.

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