Istanbul marathon to raise awareness about schizophrenia
The Blue Horse ('Mavi At' in Turkish) symbolizes the fight against the segregation of the mentally ill, and is a symbol of freedom and social inclusion.People from across the world are scheduled to take part in the Istanbul Marathon to raise awareness about schizophrenia on Nov. 16.
The aim of the initiative, organized by documentary photographer Delizia Flaccavento and filmmaker Ayşegül Selenga Taşkent, both from the Communication Faculty at Bahçeşehir University, is to fight the stigma against schizophrenia and to raise funds for the Mavi At Kafe (“Blue Horse Cafe”) in Ankara, the only cafe in Turkey run by schizophrenic patients. The slogan of the marathon is “Schizophrenia: No Stigma, Big Gain.”
Schizophrenia has a long history of neglect, demonization and concealment. Even today, the illness does not receive public attention and research funding the number of individuals and families it affects would require, according to the Schizophrenia Research Institute.
The Mavi At Kafe’s aim is to provide work opportunities for schizophrenic patients, strengthen their self-esteem, make them more active in society and fight prejudice by putting the general public in direct contact with patients. However, this rare, groundbreaking social project is at risk of closing down, according to Flaccavento, who said the cafe doesn’t receive any public funding and is not recognized as a social project. As it is simply considered a normal cafe, it pays more taxes and a higher rent than it can sustain.
Since its opening in 2009, the Mavi At Kafe has given work to over 30 schizophrenic patients. Schizophrenics often tend to have relapses, yet no patients in the café have had a relapse since they started working.
“Many people think schizophrenia is a split personality and makes people violent. This is the exception, not the rule. People with schizophrenia are more likely to be victims of violence by others,” the Royal College of Psychiatrists says, adding that if given the chance, people with schizophrenia can live a stable life, work and have relationships.
The café in Ankara is a therapeutic place where patients feel useful, keep busy and have daily exchanges with customers and people passing by. In addition to helping patients socialize, the interactions with the public also help contribute to the reduction of prejudice against people with schizophrenia. The importance of a project like the Mavi At Kafe cannot be underestimated, especially if one considers that isolation has very negative effects on patients and, in the treatment of schizophrenia, social inclusion is as important as medication.
Schizophrenia is the most persistent and disabling of the major mental illnesses, according to the World Fellowship for Schizophrenia and Allied Disorders. In Turkey, over 700,000 people suffer from schizophrenia.