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Tariq

Age at interview: 21
Age at diagnosis: 18
Brief Outline: Tariq is 21 and of British Asian origin. He is a full-time university student.
Background: This 21 year old Asian student was diagnosed with manic depression and then schizophrenia. He doesn't think that the mental health system is institutionally racist, saying that he encountered discrimination due to his mental health not his ethnicity. Video clips read by an actor.

More about me...

Tariq is 21 and of British Asian origin. He is a full-time university student. He says his diagnosis has been difficult to pinpoint' first he was diagnosed with manic depression (aged 18) and then with schizophrenia. He's tried various medications, and his current one works but blocks out his feelings, causes drowsiness and makes it difficult to study and watch TV. He takes his medication late at night to manage these side-effects.

Tariq believes that his mental health difficulties were caused by the bullying and physical assaults he experienced at school following September 11 2001 combined with the trauma of having open heart surgery (he was born with a heart defect).

When he first became unwell, Tariq began to feel anxious, down, suicidal and was constantly reliving the bullying he had experienced. At first he thought this was normal. Just before his exams, he felt worse' he didn't want anyone to speak to him, felt like smashing things, and felt uncomfortable walking to college. He said he tried to act “normally” so people wouldn't be suspicious. Tariq also experienced hallucinations (he saw dead people and people followed him around the house), delusional thoughts and thought blocking (not being able to think for himself) and he attempted suicide several times. His mental health difficulties mean that he still gets anxious in public places. Tariq believes he is in recovery but that it will take years to recover.


Tariq is on an enhanced Care Programme Approach so he sees a psychiatrist, a psychologist and a mental health nurse. Tariq strongly disagrees with the idea of institutional racism because he has not experienced it personally. He is very happy with his mental health team, who he describes as warm, compassionate and kind. He felt he is listened to and says he negotiated his care plan. However, Tariq has written letters to his mental health trust to comment on the services he receives and to make suggestions for improvements. Tariq has also had a lot of support from his disability officer at university. Tariq has tried therapy, stress workshops, meditation, self-help books, and fitness videos but thinks “it's all rubbish”. Tariq is a practicing Muslim, but he says prayer has not helped him. He feels as though he has been rejected by his religion because of his mental health difficulties.

Tariq believes he has experienced more discrimination as a result of his mental health difficulties than his ethnic background. For example, Tariq described experiencing discrimination when applying for voluntary work because of his mental health difficulties. He believes that the Disability Discrimination Act is ineffective for people with mental health problems. Tariq has chosen to tell only close friends and family about his mental health difficulties because he feels that it could affect his chances of marrying in the future.


Tariq was made to feel like a “no-hoper” at school, but is proud to be at university, and this has boosted his self-esteem and confidence. He also works as a charity trustee and does voluntary work supporting hospital patients. Tariq plans to do a PhD and to become a university lecturer. Tariq is inspired by famous people in history who reportedly experienced mental health difficulties and feels he has gained from having mental health difficulties.

For more of Tariq’s interview see our site on ‘Mental health: ethnic minority experiences’
http://www.healthtalk.org/peoples-experiences/mental-health/mental-health-ethnic-minority-experiences/tariq-interview-06
 
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When he was in year 10 and 11 of school Tariq had a “campaign of prolonged bullying” against him because of his religious identity, and he was once attacked with a cricket bat during a PE lesson. He truanted from school after that.

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So what happened during that two years, the bullying was so bad that what really stopped me from going to school was in the last nine months, and it was an assault that had taken place during a physical education, we call it PE, where I was attacked with a base, with a cricket bat. It wasn’t very hard hit but it was someone had hit me right on my legs and it was, they’d hit me and the person who was the teacher during the lesson was my form tutor and he was a PE teacher at the school and he did nothing to intervene or stop the violence. And when I did approach him and asked him he said that I was responsible and that if anyone had come to him, if the head teacher had approached him he would say that it was me that assaulted the student. At that point I was amazed that I was being blamed for something I didn’t do but what I did notice is that every time that these bullies were subjecting me to these assaults and every time I did report it nothing was done about it. Nobody was spoken to, no action was ever taken and I was the one that was being held back in detention, I was the one that was being told off, you know, stop making trouble, when I was just coming to school as normal. But then at that period I, because I was young I was vulnerable, I didn’t know what I couldn’t think straight as well I thought to myself I, it must be my fault that all these people are bullying me because I must have done this, done something. But I don’t know what I was doing wrong. well I did feel, even what I think what I did do was that I made students feel jealous because I used to come to school and I used to work hard and that really, [pause] if I could put it in this term it really pissed them off that I used to come to school, I used to work hard, go to lessons and I tended to keep to myself, because I was a new student I didn’t tend to mix with anyone else, I’d rather keep to myself, I’m not there to make friends and my parents were really, you know, pushing me to get good GCSEs etcetera so, and they didn’t like that because they’re used to being in the big gangs and walk around and I’m not that sort of person. So after that assault in the, during the PE lesson that was the last day I actually went to school and after that I spent six months truanting from school. 
 
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Tariq thinks more should be done about the negative media image of mental health. Education for young children and adults is important to prevent discrimination.

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I think at a young age you should start teaching, we should start teaching children about these things when they’re most perceptive, when they’re able to take, grasp these ideas and views. But I think when we start teaching them when they’re thirteen, fourteen it’s, it’s a very bad age because at that time they’re already brainwashed to believe all mental health patients are all crazy, that they all go out and kill people, they all murder people. It’s not how all people, the vast majority of them are law abiding, and I think that recently because I actually gave a talk in the House of Commons on the Mental Health Bill and one politician I think in the press he said, “200 people, or something, 400 people in this country are murdered by mental health patients each year. But then how many people are murdered by non-mental health patients, you know, there are more murders, rapes, kidnaps, assaults, committed by non-mental health patients than mental health patients but why don’t you have a law saying that, you know, put all these people in prison. Well, why not? That means we would put half the population of this country into prison if we had to because when you go out on a Friday and Saturday night a lot of people are violent after drinking a lot etcetera, are we going to put them all in jail? But you seem to want to put people that experience mental health difficulties in jail very quickly so why these double standards? Why? And I think that a lot of these Lords and MPs are brainwashed by what the media tell them. Mental health patients, they’re going to come and get you, they’re going to, they’re out to get the lot of us. 

You know, this, this indoctrination of telling people that we’re all bad, we’re all negative and that you can’t mix people with people that experience mental health difficulties only contributes to this culture of ignorance and negative, the negative perception people have towards mental health patients and it, and it’s disgraceful and I think that the media can do so much to challenge the stigma but they’re not being paid billions of pounds to do that. But on the other side they are being paid to generate this negativity and it’s very sad because it puts people like me in a position where we’re discriminated against. And adding onto that I think that people like me have suffered more, you know, people say that race discrimination is the worst in this country. I think discrimination against mental health patients are far worse but nobody will recognise that because nobody knows about it.
 
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Tariq talks about the stigma against mental illness in the British South Asian community and says it is common in other BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) communities.

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Okay and so what, what do you think would happen if your community found out, can you say a bit more about that?

Well people would look at you in a negative way, probably ridicule you behind your back, probably make, you know, say things that would be very hurtful if you were there. ridicule you and, and it would be frowned upon, people would think oh my God and it would be spread across relatives and people would be like, “He’s got mental health difficulties.” And then it may be bad for my own future, for, you know, when I get married and etcetera because, you know, people will say he’s got mental health difficulties, would you want to marry into a family that has someone that has a mental health difficulty etcetera. So I think those are the repercussions of if I came out openly about it. 

Do you think that is something that’s particular to, to your community or do you think…?

I think it’s particular to certain other communities, BME communities because I think in certain African groups it’s a very sensitive issue as well. in certain, you know, in Indian culture it is regarded, in Bengali culture it is regarded as very sensitive, it’s frowned upon, in Pakistani culture, many different cultures it’s frowned upon. And this is not only talking from me just talking off the top of my head this is from extensive research that has been conducted by universities, that has been conducted by mental health charities, by organisations, by even organisations that tailor their service to ethnic, you know, Indian communities because there are Indian organisations, Indian led organisations that provide services to their own community, mental health services so they have also conducted research and they have found that there is a lot of stigma and a lot, among certain communities in their own. But I think that as people, as an increasing number of people enter the system it will become increasingly accepted by society and that’s when it may be but I don’t think that will be in my lifetime. I think that will take many, many years because I think there is a lot of stigma about still and cultural sensitivity has a lot of influence on people and that’s, I think that, it will take many, many years to defeat.
 
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The faces of those who had bullied and tormented Tariq flooded back and he couldn’t put them to back of his mind.

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And the thing is that even the faces came flooding back, every face, you know, if I was to see all the bullies today I would know their faces. If I was to see all the teachers today I would know their face. It all flooded back, everything flooded back, even the traumatic, the pains that I was going through when I was having my surgery everything all came back. And I couldn’t put it behind me, and it was like when I tried to think of something I couldn’t, it was just right at the front.  
 
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Tariq had open heart surgery because of a heart defect. He said that facing surgery when he was already depressed was ‘damaging’.

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And during that summer I actually underwent open heart surgery because I was born with a heart, a serious heart defect and as a result of that I had open heart surgery, heart surgery here in the UK. that was successful but the thing is that any parent will understand how damaging it can be for someone who was about to face surgery was suffering two years of bullying beforehand and I had health problems but these bullies didn’t really care. So I had my surgery, I overcame that and I can’t believe how I did that because I’d been psychologically damaged from the bullying and now I was moving to another traumatic surgery straight after and I had to spend weeks in hospital because of the surgery. So I believe these two contributed immensely to this, to me psychologically being so damaged if that makes sense.
 
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The crisis team came to see Tariq every day at home, and when he needed time away from his family he could go to a respite unit.

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The people at the hospital decided that the crisis teams that are now everywhere that they come and see me in my home every single day from that day on. So every single day for a very, very long time, I can’t even remember how many months, for every single day for several months they’d come to see me at home and I’d tell them this is how I’ve been feeling. But the thing is that even though I was talking to them my condition was worsening and it was worsening. It came to a period where, you know, they couldn’t keep me in the house but what they did do on, on occasions was to put me in the respite unit which we had in the, it was a respite unit that was part of the mental health service, but was in the community and it was a place where people can go and use the services, or use some of the provision that was available such as read books and... And it was away from the outside world, it was, you know, a lot of the time the world is a busy place and people are moving around so it was somewhere where you could go and relax and just have, you know, be with other service users and just enjoy yourself and etcetera. And I spent three or four weeks there and I, I did that frequently so whenever there was tension in the house, whenever I started shouting at people, in my family, that’s when it was decided, you know, you can go there. 
 
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Tariq has a good relationship with his psychiatrist and mental health nurse. They let him set out his own care plan and treated him while he lived at home rather than sectioning him despite his own family’s concerns.

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But to be honest, you know, there’s a lot of talk that, that mental staff are very sort of, they take it to the extreme that they deliberately section people. To be honest at no point was a section considered in my case. My doctors and my nurses were some of the most compassionate, some of the most warm, some of the most kindest people that I’d ever come across because whenever my, whenever my family brought up sectioning because I, you know, for them it was a new thing that I was unwell and they were quite frightened to have me in the house and stuff, the, the, the doctors were saying no we’re not going to because we feel that we can’t, we want him to stay in the community because he’s young and we have a lot of, we have, we see a lot out there for him because, and we know that we, he has a future in front of him and we want to treat him at home. and the thing is that over time, over the last four or five, three or four years that I’ve been a patient they’ve seen me gradually recover in front of them and, and they’ve never had to section me. I’ve been supported by them and the thing is that every, in, I, I frequently work closely with my psychiatrists, with my mental health nurse and the thing is a lot of the time staff do and having spoken to other service users the staff do try to impose their own sort of care plan, you know, this is what’s going to happen, this is what you have to take. But for me it was like, you know, what do you want, what do you want us to do, how do you want to go about it? 

And they let me set out my own care plan which was amazing so on a weekly basis rather than them telling me what to do, what to take, how to take it, I’d say look I’m going to take it on this day, I’m going to take it on that day, I’m going to walk, on that day I’m going to go for this, and the thing is they accepted it so it really amazed me that the staff actually listened to what I had to say. but what I did say I sort of, I’m the sort of person that’s sort of, I can be like a politician I can make concessions, I can be like, you know, if you don’t do this then I’m not going to do this. If you don’t let me do this then I’m not going to take the medication etcetera and the thing is that they actually engaged with me in that sort of concession sort of thing. [Laughs] “Alright if you do the medication then we’ll do this for you.” and it was like, I was able to engage with them frequently and it’s, and until this very day I do, on a monthly basis I go to an outpatients’ appointment to see my psychiatrist and my mental health nurse and we still do make concessions. and like I’m the sort of person that would say, you know, if you don’t make concessions I’m walking out of here, and the thing is that I’ve never had staff not listen to me and they’ve always listened to me etcetera so I think having access to mental health services I’ve actually positively gained out of the support that I’ve received, the support mechanism, you know, they, they’ve been very understanding, whenever I couldn’t come and wouldn’t contact them they’ve been very, you know, “We understand”.
 
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Although Tariq was never sectioned he thinks young people shouldn’t be in a hospital environment because he feels it is “dangerous” and “frightening”.

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I think that no young person should be in a hospital, it’s a very dangerous place for a child, it can be very frightening for a child. children and young people and adults we develop in two different ways, adults are completely different from young people we have different dependency levels and etcetera so I think on that, because in hospitals it’s only those that are eighteen and over mainly or those between thirty and over, the majority of the patients are over twenty five, they’re usually in their thirties of forties. You wouldn’t put a seventeen year old onto the same ward as a forty year old whose condition is far more worse, who poses a significant threat to all the patients. So it’s better that a child is, is around the people that love them most, their family because that’s where a child should be. And even like every professional I talk to they always say that a child’s home should not be in the hospital it should be in their own home, it should be in the school where they go to school. They shouldn’t be living in a hospital that’s not the place to be.
 

When Tariq was experiencing psychosis he would become aggressive and shout at his family. They would sometimes have to restrain him but in a caring way.

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To be honest my family were able to deal with me, even at my worst times,, you know, when they were able to restrain me when I got worse but they didn’t put much strength as a doctor, as I don’t know someone who is, you know, who works in the public service, someone like a police officer when they detain someone and try to restrain them, they put a lot of power down. My parents tended to just hold onto my hands but not put too much pressure on them because every time they did I became more angry so they tended, they knew what, how to restrain me and they made sure that they didn’t worsen my condition when they restrained me. But in hospital they restrain you, they don’t care how you feel, if your condition is worse they’ll hold you down, even if it’s painful you can’t shout and scream and stuff. So I think that being around my parents and my family has really benefited me.
 

Tariq thinks that mental health professionals should allow family members to sit in during appointments with the psychiatrist, mental health nurse or crisis team and be part of the decision making process.

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Yeah well I think one of the good ways of providing a very good tailored service would be for mental health expert, professionals to work with the families, to work with parents, to work with brothers and sisters in that family, to sit down and to talk to them. 

So for example I’m a patient it would be great if my parents and my family were able to sit down with my doctor, and my psychiatrist and the mental health nurse and the crisis team and talk together and find out the best way forward so that everyone feels involved, everyone feels they can contribute. And also then the family who have no experience of mental health services have a better understanding of the system, they are no, they know that in an emergency where they can take their son or daughter to, rather than them knowing nothing and then when an emergency arises they just sit there and say, “Oh my God, what do we do now?” I think that’s a good way, that’s a good sort of technique that could be used. I think that is not used and it could be used more frequently certainly.
 
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When Tariq was attacked by another student, the teacher did nothing and blamed Tariq. He began to think he was at fault. He couldn’t get the voices and faces of the bullies out of his mind.

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So what happened during that two years, the bullying was, was so bad, what really stopped me from going to school was in the last nine months, it was an assault that had taken place during a physical education, we call it PE, where I was attacked with a base, with a cricket bat. It wasn’t very hard hit but it was someone had hit me right on my legs and it was, they’d hit me and the person who was the teacher during the lesson was my form tutor and he was a PE teacher at the school and he did nothing to intervene or stop the violence. And when I did approach him and asked him he said that I was responsible and that if anyone had come to him, if the head teacher had approached him he would say that it was me that assaulted the student. At that point I was amazed that I was being blamed for something I didn’t do but what I did notice is that every time that these bullies were subjecting me to these assaults and every time I did report it nothing was done about it. Nobody was spoken to, no action was ever taken and I was the one that was being held back in detention, I was the one that was being told off, you know, stop making trouble, when I was just coming to school as normal. But then at that period I, because I was young I was vulnerable, I didn’t know what… I couldn’t think straight as well I thought to myself, it must be my fault that all these people are bullying me because I must have done this, done something.

But then every night when I went to sleep I started recounting what happened to me during the bullying and everything came flooding back. 

And the thing is that even the faces came flooding back, every face, you know, if I was to see all the bullies today I would know their faces. If I was to see all the teachers today I would know their face. It all flooded back, everything flooded back, even the traumatic, the pains that I was going through when I was having my surgery everything all came back. And it, and I couldn’t put it behind me, and it was like when I tried to think of something I couldn’t, it was just right at the front.
 
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Tariq finds that the medication he takes can cause short-term memory loss which affects his ability to retain what he’s been learning.

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On occasions it affects the way I learn because people have methods of working and when you take medication it’s sometimes blocks out what you’ve learnt in the last ten hours or eleven hours or if, let’s say I’ve taken medication and I want to get some work done by 12 midnight, it will put you to asleep, it will put you to sleep by within an hour, basically it’s gone, every time I take the medication in the morning it will put you to sleep or completely block everything out and that’s why I tend to take it after 11 o’clock at night so that I can take it when I go to sleep and when I wake up I’ll be fresh and everything will come back. That’s the thing is that when you take your medication it will block everything out then when you wake up suddenly everything is there again so I tend to take it at night when I’m just about to go sleep and etcetera so yeah.
 
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Tariq thinks racial discrimination gets more recognition than mental health discrimination.

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But the thing is that if I were to say excuse me I’m not going to take you because you’re a white person or you’re a black person that’s the, you know, they’ll be a, a racist case going on, there’ll be legal disputes out there but if you say, “Oh you’ve got a mental health difficulty,” who’s going to recognise that? If you go out to people in society, society is so ignorant society will go, “Oh they didn’t deserve the job, they’ve got a mental health difficulty,” that’s how negatively people see, portray mental health and, you know, race discrimination is recognised and there’s so much huff puff about it but when it comes to discrimination against mental health patients it’s not recognised. That’s why when you talk about it people are like, “Huh that’s, you know, why you talking about that, that’s not even important.” You know why it’s not important because it’s not recognised. When something is not recognised it’s not important. Racism is important because it’s something we recognise and people always throw allegations of racism. It’s easy to do that, it’s easy to say, you know, I’m a black person so I’m a victim of racism. But if you say I’m a mental health patient people say that’s even worse because you can’t think straight, you don’t know what you’re talking about etcetera etcetera. So I think that this discrimination, Race Relations Act protects people from race, disability protects people with physical disability.
 
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Although he has no formal qualifications Tariq has been a trustee for over twenty charities. He works hard and feels he’s achieved a lot. He feels it has given him the kind of experience that professionals have.

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I do a lot of work in my community, I’ve been a charity trustee for over twenty different charities, since the age of 16, 17, since the age of 17 I’ve been quite active, been a trustee, been a, I’ve sat on many management committees and I’ve gained the experience as most professionals do in the outside world when they sit, get involved in major decision-making and I’ve experienced all that. and I’ve done quite a lot and I feel that I’ve achieved quite a lot because I’ve been able to bring myself to such a position that when I, when I actually sit down with my university friends, who studied at private schools, you know, I feel far more intelligent than them because in my spare time when they’re out with their friends I’m reading, I’m studying, I’m working as hard because I know that because of my background, because I didn’t get any GCSEs I need to work as hard. If I don’t then people, when I go to the world of work people will laugh at me, they’re going to say, you know, you’ve got no GCSEs, you’ve got no formal real qualifications why should we take you on? So I want to work as hard, so far I feel I’ve achieved a lot.
 
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Tariq was shocked when a university lecturer challenged him on his right to a Freedom pass and said “I can’t see your disability”.

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And the thing I remember one day when I went to university I walked up to one of the lecturers and basically it was regarding my travel, to renew my travel and for my Freedom pass and a lot of students have to do that. I showed them my Freedom pass and then they go “How come you’ve got a Freedom pass?” I say “Because I’m a disabled student,” and they go “Where? I can’t see your disability.” And I’m like, “You know, you don’t need to know where my disability is,” and they’re like,” But when I look at you I don’t see you in a wheelchair, I don’t see any disability where, where is your disability?” And I really felt shocked, I felt degraded, I thought, you know, who the hell are you to ask me what my disability is, you just, your job is to renew my pass, not to tell me where, and what shocked me is that people are so narrow minded that they choose what is a disability and what is not. For them a disability is someone that needs to be in a wheelchair or someone that needs to, you know, physically needs to be throwing up or whatever. But when you’ve got mental health difficulties it’s like people it’s frowned upon, it’s like. “Oh you’ve got mental health difficulty that’s bad, you know, you pose a threat, you know, get away from me”. And it really shocks me by the wide, how bad and widespread discrimination is in our society.
 
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Tariq finds that being in a hot or crowded place, such as a bus or a tube makes him anxious. It makes it harder to go out and travel anywhere or meet people.

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Well, yeah well the worse one is, and that’s why I was, talking about keeping the windows open because I still have anxiety issues. whenever I’m in a heated place I get very anxious, whenever I’m in a crowded place I get anxious, whenever I’m on a bus I get anxious, whenever I’m on a tube I get anxious, whenever I’m in a car I get anxious. Wherever I am where there’s people, where it’s hot I get anxious, I get sweaty I get, that makes me very uncomfortable, it makes me very conscious of the people around me, it makes me very alert, you know, and I see people as a threat rather than people that are trying to, who are my relatives or whatever and that makes me distance myself away from everyone, walk out the house or stand outside or whatever and exclude myself from everyone else. That’s some of the, that’s one of the experiences that I’ve had and I’m not sure about the other ones, I can’t remember because of the medication again, a lot of, you know, the medication blocks a lot out so, what was the question again?

I was asking about what effect your symptoms have on your life?

Yes well they have, I think they have the most significant impact on my life because it affects my day to day life of going out every day, meet, meeting with people, mixing with people, mixing with crowds, getting on public transport, getting into cars, you know, it, it really affects me really badly, you know.
 

Tariq thinks meditation is a “joke”, and very “ineffective”. He’s tried it but found it difficult to sit even for thirty seconds.

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Some of the things that they tell me as in the crisis team told me breathe in and out, meditation, all these million and one things, none, nothing helps. Meditation doesn’t help, meditation only helps people that, I don’t think it helps anyone, I just think that people say it helps them but it doesn’t because especially like in this, in this sort of developed modernised world where people are constantly in and out and people are constantly working and the world is going at such a fast pace there is no time for meditation, people that meditate are either lying or they are so, they are feeling this, you know, I don’t know this sort of karma, whatever you call it, I don’t, honestly I just think it’s just all, I, I don’t think any of it is true because I’ve actually tried it, I’ve actually tried to sit there for three hours but I can’t even sit there for thirty seconds I just think right this is a joke [laughs]. I find every technique very ineffective so yeah.
 
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Tariq wants to send a message to society that mental illness is not something to be ashamed of, but it’s prejudice against those who experience mental illness that is shameful.

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Bill Clinton once famously said that mental illness is not something to be ashamed of but stigma and bias shames us all.” And he’s absolutely right, he got it spot on, straight away because he said, “On the one hand we shouldn’t be ashamed, patients shouldn’t be ashamed that they’ve got a mental health difficulty, irrespective of if there are sensitivities or not in their community they should feel proud that, you know, they’ve experienced mental health difficulties but that’s part of life you shouldn’t be embarrassed of it, if you suffer from it don’t be embarrassed.
 
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Tariq encourages people to carry on with life and not feel embarrassed about their psychosis.

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To, that they too can persevere, even though they’ve got mental health difficulties they can preserve not to feel embarrassed of their mental health difficulties, that to continue with life and to keep on working at what they’re doing and not to be taken, not to let anyone pull them down because I think that if you let that happen then what will happen is that you’ll go down and it will affect you really badly. But if you persevere and if you ignore those ignorant comments you will persevere in life and I feel that I’ve persevered. Even though I haven’t got a PhD yet I think I’ve persevered and I’ve shown people that through my experience I’ve positively done things constructive in my life that a lot of people can learn from and a lot of people can adopt to their own lifestyle. 
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