This article was written by Amal Mohamud, a Canadian intern with Challenges Media.
Vishalatchi Arunagiri was working as a peer specialist leader at the Malaysian Mental Health Association when I interviewed her. She shared her life with Schizophrenia which is a brain disorder that affects the way a person behaves, thinks, and sees the world. Today at the age of 23, Vishalatchi is an honorary mental illness advocate.
At the age of 19 she suffered schizophrenia which took her three years to come out of the closet and speak of her illness. Growing up Vishalatchi states “I had low self-esteem. I’ve suffered in getting pn with my education throughout my life as they told me I was a slow learner and I couldn’t get an education. I was bullied a lot at school. But I have a mean streak too, so sometimes there’s tension at school.”
She spent the last three years in rehab and psycho-therapy and also studied short courses like makeup. “I took many courses because I was trying to find what I like”, she added.
“My lowest point was when I lost all my ability to function and I was stuck with a label which has a stigma. I was in hiding until I became brave and came out of the closet after meeting Reshma.*”
Three years after the incident, Vishalatchi met a young woman named Reshma who also underwent schizophrenia. Reshma inspired her because she earned an award as Woman of the Year in India as well as won numerous awards and had a documentary film of herself on the local television in India.
“I also got inspired that she lived alone and independently and how she made it to the UN and TEDX India. She lives in India and she is half Malaysian.”
For Vishalatch, it gave her confidence that she too could also prosper in life. Another individual that inspired Vishalatchi was her mother,
“My role model would be my mother. She inspires me to be positive and happy in any suffering.” She is very pleased of her accomplishments in this present day. She not only spreads awareness about mental illness but has started working on the concept of creating beauty as therapy for all age groups and gives henna services since 2014.
Vishalatchi has written her own book entitled, “In my shoes’ part one: living with schizophrenia.” She states, “Those who take life for granted, nothing lasts forever. When you fall, you will understand how much life is more valuable.”
During the interview I felt really passionate. Vishalatchi is an inspirational, intelligent and kind young woman. Throughout the difficult challenges she encountered, she managed to surpass it. I want to be able to give back to my own community and be the voice for the unrepresented just like her.
As for myself, I grew up in Canada. Mental illness is a major concern. In Canada, schizophrenia is the youth’s greatest disabler as it strikes most often in the 16 to 30 years of age. Research has shown that of the 4,000 Canadians who die every year as a result of suicide, most were confronting a mental health problem or illness. Currently in Canada, the people are demanding to invest more money in the system to ensure these people get the care they need. Even though access to healthcare is free, booking an appointment to see a therapist takes months occasionally.
*Reshma or Val Resh. (http://challengesmedia.com/val-resh/)