Boehringer Ingelheim pop-up shows what life is like with schizophrenia

Although the United States has made great strides in normalizing mental health conversations and encouraging people to seek treatment for behavioral issues, there are still widespread stigma challenges that need to be addressed.

If anxiety and depression still have lingering negative connotations, the barriers faced by people with multiple mental illnesses are even more challenging.

For many people, the mere mention of schizophrenia can be laced with preconceived notions and misunderstandings about the disease.

In popular culture, it is often described alongside more commonly known effects such as psychosis, hallucinations, and auditory hallucinations. However, there are also suggestions that those with the disease are dangerous or violent, despite many statistics showing that these patient groups are more likely to be the recipients of such violence.

For the 24 million people with schizophrenia worldwide, there are many cognitive issues associated with the disease that are overlooked and can adversely affect a person’s lifestyle.

With that in mind, Boehringer Ingelheim hosted a pop-up event in SoHo on Tuesday to highlight the extent to which these cognitive impairments affect people with schizophrenia.

As part of its “Stability Is Not” campaign, the drugmaker offers the public an immersive experience to show how difficult it can be to live with schizophrenia.

The Look Beyond Stable showcase features two cluttered sample apartments. The beds were not made, the floor and furniture were strewn with rubbish, leftover food and a long list of unfinished drinks, and the windows were covered with aluminum foil with holes in them.

Additionally, there are sticky notes posted throughout the apartment as reminders of tasks and errands to be completed, many of which are stacked on top of each other.

Image used with permission.

Schizophrenia attacks home

For Christine Sakdalan, head of the U.S. mental health franchise at Boehringer Ingelheim, the initiative is both a professional and personal project, as her brother has lived with the effects of schizophrenia for more than 30 years.

While having a messy bedroom is not a common experience for people with schizophrenia, many people do live with the condition, and feedback from patient advocates was used to create the display, Sakdharan said.

During a flash media preview on Monday, Sakdaran said that when schizophrenia is discussed, the focus remains largely on “positive symptoms” such as hallucinations and auditory hallucinations. However, she notes that these cognitive impairments can hinder a patient’s ability to maintain jobs, relationships, and even daily life.

“Once a person with schizophrenia is stabilized, cognitive impairment and all the other negative symptoms are not talked about and not treated,” she said. “This immersive experience is designed to educate, amplify impact and provide an urgent call to action.”

Sakdalan said the campaign is Boehringer Ingelheim’s way of encouraging healthcare professionals and other pharmaceutical companies to not only stabilize patients, but also enable people to thrive.

Prior to its New York debut, Stable isn’t having participated in several medical conferences and will continue to present at upcoming industry events in the coming months.

Sakdaran added that the campaign aims to showcase the critical unmet needs of patients and caregivers as it relates to serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, and why more investment is needed to complete innovative treatments.

She said Boehringer Ingelheim has a strong product pipeline and plans to enter and lead the field in the coming years, but first by educating consumers, patients and caregivers on issues related to schizophrenia.

Art imitates patients’ lives

“Stable isn’t” is another example of Boehringer Ingelheim using the power of art to tell healthcare-focused stories on behalf of patients.

The drugmaker debuted the Unwearable Collaboration this summer to highlight the physical and emotional pain faced by patients with generalized pustular psoriasis (GPP). Boehringer Ingelheim has partnered with the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) to allow students to participate in the creative process under the guidance of fashion designer Bart Hess.

This campaign to better understand and communicate about schizophrenia has similarities to previous efforts targeting rare diseases, as Boehringer Ingelheim tends to harness the power of immersive, artistically avant-garde programming.

Sakdalan said visualizing this slice of daily life can give health care workers, family and friends a sense of what life with this disease is like and emphasize that the ultimate goal of the care journey is more than just achieving stability.

She said the public may not gain its fullest sympathy for people with schizophrenia without immersing viewers in the most common aspects of life with the condition.

She noted that the company has taken steps to ensure that art does not overly exaggerate these lived experiences, but still emphasized that there is room for improvement in treating the disease.

“It’s important to understand what’s going on at home and behind the scenes in order to move beyond stability,” she said. “They may look good in front of you, but behind the scenes, they’re really not good.”

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