USC Professor With Schizophrenia Proves Success is Possible

Elyn Saks received an award from the American Psychological Association last week.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A civil rights group is demanding a federal investigation into the July beating of a mentally-ill man by Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies that left him hospitalized. Kathy Vara reports for NBC4 news at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. (Published Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014)

    Elyn Saks is an award-winning University of Southern California law professor who has studied at both Yale and Oxford.

    She’s also been living with schizophrenia since she was a teenager. 

    "I was gesticulating and singing and twirling around and saying delusional and crazy and frightening and scary things," Saks said about one of her early experiences with the mental illness.

    Saks was put in psychiatric hospital for nearly five months, where she says she was restrained for hours. 

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    "They lifted me high off the ground and slammed me down on a bed so I saw stars and bound my legs and arms with leather straps," Saks said.

    After her last hospitalization at the age of 28, doctors told Saks to work as a cashier.

    Instead, she finished her college years at Yale, studied at Oxford and now teaches at the USC Gould School of Law where she is studying people like herself – high-achieving individuals living with schizophrenia.

    "Sometimes when I'm giving public lectures, people will raise their hands and say, 'you know, are you really sure you have schizophrenia?'" Saks said.

    Saks started a foundation in her name to fight some of the issues surrounding the treatment of people suffering from mental illness – including the use of restraints in hospital settings.

    She encourages those suffering from the mental illness to take advantage of family support and therapy sessions.

    "My advice is to get treatment. Treatment works. Treatment helps. You shouldn't have to suffer," Saks said.

    Saks received an award from the American Psychological Association last week.