Schizophrenic.NYC Mental Health Clothing Line was created Michelle Hammer, a Schizophrenic living in New York City who wants to change the way New Yorkers perceive mental health patients donating a portion of their profits to organizations who support the mentally ill homeless. The designs by Schizophrenic.NYC intends to start discussions- "What do the Rorschach Tests make you think of? How do their slogans make you feel? Only through an open dialogue of mental health can we reduce its stigma" Michelle tells us. "One in five New Yorkers suffer from a mental health issue. Here at Schizophrenic.NYC we are using clothing and art to get the word out about mental health awareness. Together we are making a change!"
Name Michelle Hammer
Birthday May 7
Where are you originally from? New York
Where do you currently live? New York
Guilty pleasures? Binging on Netflix
Who are some of your favorite artists? James Rosenquist, Chuck Close, Shepard Fairey
What is something you deeply love about yourself? I don't let my diagnosis of Schizophrenia hold me back. I’ve turned it into a platform for mental health awareness. I promote discussion of mental health to reduce stigma, especially in NYC where 1 in 5 New Yorkers suffer from a mental health issue.
Briefly, describe the circumstances under which you grew up, and how did these influence your work? Growing up with Schizophrenia was difficult. I wasn’t officially diagnosed until I was 22, so my life until that point was very rocky. It’s hard to concentrate in high school when you hear voices in your head, not to mention maintain relationships with friends. Although I suffered from symptoms from a young age I didn’t seek help until I was ready when I was 18 and in college. At 18 I was told I was bipolar, and after about a year of talking to different doctors, I found one who put me on a medication that calmed down the voices and calmed down my anxiety (for the most part). During the summer, when I was 20 I had a sketchbook and started drawing to help my anxiety. I drew many different detailed patterns. Today, I use those drawings (and new ones) to create the art I make on Schizophrenic.NYC.
“I don't let my diagnosis of Schizophrenia hold me back. I’ve turned it into a platform for mental health awareness”
Tell us a little bit about your journey with schizophrenia and how this led to the creation of Schizophrenic.NYC. Having Schizophrenia makes it hard to work in a corporate environment. I’ve worked with many different organizations as a graphic and web designer. Although the work I do is great, I usually struggle with the office setting. I often feel trapped at my desk. I feel there is nothing more uncreative than sitting behind a desk in a cubicle. This situation leaves me feeling depressed and unmotivated. In addition, being schizophrenic, I talk to myself a lot. My roommate at the time would call me out on it, and we would just laugh it off. Then one day I was riding the F train and I saw a homeless man talking to himself in the same way that I do it. Then I realized what the difference was between me and this man. I have a support system that he doesn’t have. Although I am schizophrenic, I am lucky. I have family, friends, and a doctor. Without them, I could be in this man’s position. I then thought to myself that I had to do something that would raise awareness for mental health in NYC and help out with the mentally ill homeless. This is why a portion of the profits of Schizophrenic.NYC are donated to organizations that help out with the mentally ill homeless.
Tell us about the Rorschach Test, how it works, and how you’ve incorporated it into your products. Many of Schizophrenic.NYC’s designs have the Rorschach Test. The Rorschach Test inkblots are interpreted, and based on responses, deductions are made. The Schizophrenic.NYC Rorschach Test design idea is that when the unmedicated person with Schizophrenia looks at a solid black regular test they will see it from a very different perspective. I have switched up the patterns and colors inside the test, and now everyone looks at that test from a different perspective.
In what way is Schizophrenic.NYC helping New Yorkers with Schizophrenia? I talk to many people when I set up a pop-up shop in New York. I tell them about Schizophrenic.NYC and myself and often great conversations start. People are encouraged to talk about mental health and the struggle either they, a family member, or a friend go through. This is great because people are now talking about mental health. People becoming more open to talking about mental health is a huge goal of Schizophrenic.NYC.
“One day I was riding the F train and I saw a homeless man talking to himself in the same way that I do it. Then I realized what the difference was between me and this man. I have a support system that he doesn’t have”
What would you say to people who are struggling to come to terms with their diagnosis of Schizophrenia? It’s hard to come to terms with a diagnosis of Schizophrenia. It feels like you have a mark on you. You feel like you will never be that person who you wanted to be. However, it’s important to remember that You Are Not Your Diagnosis. You are you. You make your life what you want it to be. Also, telling your friends about your diagnosis can help. When your friends accept you, who cares about other people who don't?
How can we all play a helpful role in de-stigmatizing schizophrenia and other mental illnesses? The best way to de-stigmatize mental illnesses is to understand that there are different degrees of mental illness. Just because you might see someone yelling nonsense and it’s obvious that they have a mental health illness, it doesn't mean that everyone with a mental illness acts that way. People need to understand that there are people living with mental illnesses all around us and we don’t know that because they manage it well.
“The Schizophrenic.NYC Rorschach Test design idea is that when the unmedicated person with Schizophrenia looks at a solid black regular test they will see it from a very different perspective. I have switched up the patterns and colors inside the test, and now everyone looks at that test from a different perspective”
What are the biggest obstacles you have had to overcome throughout your journey with schizophrenia?
I would say my biggest obstacle I had to overcome throughout my journey of schizophrenia would be to accept that I needed medication to function on a daily basis. It’s upsetting to have to start every single day with medication. I fought the need for it for a long time. Once I accepted I needed medication and started taking it regularly, my life changed for the better.
Where can we purchase Schizophrenic.NYC?
You can find Schizophrenic.NYC online for right now. Over the summer I pop-up on Mulberry Street outside the Church of San Gennaro. It’s a lot of fun meeting new people and telling them about my company and story. I find popping up to be one of the most fun things about Schizophrenic.NYC.
What are your hopes for the future of Schizophrenic.NYC? My hope for the future Schizophrenic.NYC is that people will feel inspired to talk about mental health. I hope to open people’s minds and to accept people they wouldn't have accepted before. To change the way people feel about mental illness. To reduce stigma and promote acceptance.
Anything else you’d like to add? View my video below!
“You feel like you will never be that person who you wanted to be. However, it’s important to remember that You Are Not Your Diagnosis. You are you. You make your life what you want it to be”