John Nash, a renowned mathematician, who contributed to the game theory and developed the Nash Equilibrium which later lead him to win the Nobel Prize.
He spent many years struggling and battling with Schizophrenia, but with the proper support and by understanding and coming to terms with his mental illness, around the 1970s, he fully recovered.
It was when Nash was 30 years old when the symptoms of Schizophrenia appeared. He would suddenly disappear for days and come back without any explanations. He would make senseless statements to his students and colleagues and slowly became paranoid, believing that he was constantly being followed.
Schizophrenia is a mental illness that affects a person’s ability to think, manage their emotions, and understand and interact with society. It usually involves someone having hallucinations and delusions, such in Nash’s case, hearing voices.
One of the reasons that Nash was able to recover from his mental illness, was by having the proper support of his family and friends.
The community at Princeton were always very supportive and protective and often found employment for Nash when he could work. It was also the University who first arranged for Nash to be taken to McLean Hospital for professional help.
According to the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, “More than 70% of people with schizophrenia would like to be employed, but fewer than 15% actually are.” (1) People with Schizophrenia often feel independent when working. It is also found to improve their social skills, which lowers the chance of negative symptoms.
His wife Alicia Esther Nash, was always very supportive of him. Even after the divorce, she took care of him and took him into her house near Princeton, preventing him from becoming homeless. The later remarried in 2001 and stayed together until their unexpected deaths in 2015.
Counselling and rehabilitation strategies are found to be effective. It involves the individual to create a plan to improve work, school, relationship goals, moods and anxiety. Certain therapies can also help reduce delusions and hallucinations.
According to an interview done with the Canadian Mental Health Association, “Social workers and therapists can greatly help with day to day living, social skills, employment and connections to community supports.”
Peer support is a developing area where someone with a mental illness learns and receives support from someone who has always been there. It can give people with a mental illness a better employment opportunity.
Nash was also able to recover by understanding and coming to terms with his mental illness.
As he aged, his condition did appear to improve. Nash once said, “I emerged from irrational thinking, without medicine other than the natural hormonal changes of aging,” (N2)
He started to question his delusions and demanded that they justify themselves. By doing this, he was able to recognize that the delusions were indeed not real.
He also practiced a “Diet of the Mind.” By doing this he learned to recognize the voices he heard. Overtime Nash began to refuse to listen or respond to the voices and rejected his paranoid thoughts, refusing to follow them.
A recent study done by the US National Library of Medicine have shown that many of the symptoms accompanied with schizophrenia do improve with age. They stated that, “Older patients typically have less severe positive symptoms than the younger patients, but negative symptoms seem to continue into their late life” (3)
Furthermore, over time people living with schizophrenia usually seem to do better with managing their symptoms and functioning better in society, while also being able to reduce their relapses.