Mental health: ethnic minority experiences

Lorenz - Interview 11

Age at interview: 50
Age at diagnosis: 20

Brief outline: Lorenz is a 50 year old Black Afro-Caribbean man who has been in the UK since 1966. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia aged 20 and this is now controlled by the anti-psychotic Aripiprazole (10mg daily) enabling Lorenz to work as a social care assistant.

Background: Social care assistant, married with adult children. Ethnic background/nationality: Black Afro-Caribbean (born in West Indies) in UK for 41 years.

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Lorenz is a 50 year old Black Afro-Caribbean man who came to the UK in 1966. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia aged 20. He describes himself and his parents (who are West Indian) as more English than the English. He believes in God, but takes a “pick and mix” approach to worship and attends three churches.

Lorenz believes his first breakdown was caused by the stress he was under as an apprentice tool maker and the youth work he was doing for his church. He also wonders whether the history of slavery lead mental illness to be passed down through Black people's genes. At the time, Lorenz believed he was possessed by the devil-he thinks that being religious might be a hindrance to psychosis. As a result of his breakdown, Lorenz lost his girlfriend, his job and was rejected by his church. Lorenz could not accept his diagnosis until he had his second breakdown. Lorenz has had 4 breakdowns, and was sectioned twice. He can recognise when he's becoming ill because he begins to believe the television is talking to him and becomes very sensitive to the news. Lorenz has tried many different types of medication but they all had severe side-effects. He calls his current medication (Aripiprazole) a “wonder drug” because he experiences no side effects. He says that if he stops taking the medication the psychosis will come back-he doesn't think it can be cured. 

Lorenz thinks professionals do not understand Black culture and that Black people are treated differently by the mental health system, although he feels he was not treated too badly. He initially thought that the psychiatrist wanted to control him in case he did something wrong, but does not think he was diagnosed with schizophrenia just because he is Black. Lorenz tends not to view situations as racially motivated. He thinks institutional racism is partly due to the low numbers of Black psychiatrists, but says in the past he wouldn't have wanted to be treated by a Black psychiatrist, believing that a white psychiatrist would be more open-minded and willing to work with his belief system. 

The drowsiness caused by his medication has made it difficult for Lorenz to keep jobs and he's had spells of unemployment. Lorenz and his family found it difficult to survive financially, and were supported by their parents. Four years ago, Lorenz attempted suicide in an attempt to claim insurance money to help with their financial difficulties, but this made things worse.

Lorenz originally wanted to become a religious leader, but chose to become a family man. He has now been married for 25 years and has raised his children, 2 of whom are at university. Lorenz feels the support of his family has helped him. His wife has always been involved in meetings with his psychiatrist and GP. It has always been his dream to work in the care sector, and he is now able to work full-time as a social care worker with people with mental health problems. He feels his experience of mental health problems has helped him to grow and be a better person and says his experience of mental health problems is “an experience in learning, problem solving and perceptual broadening”.


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