You Are Not Your Diagnosis: Schizophrenic.NYC

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

Age 28

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”

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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.