Mental health simulator raises awareness

Family and Children's Center add in-house pharmacy

The Family and Children’s Center in La Crosse is celebrating a new addition to its building, an in-house pharmacy.

At an open house on Tuesday, staff members showed off their new Genoa Healthcare Pharmacy, which primarily serves people who are living with a mental illness.        

With a growing number of clients, this will allow staff members at the Family and Children’s Center to be more efficient when it comes to administering medication.          

Now the center will be able to perform daily deliveries to clients to make sure they are getting the prescriptions they need on a daily basis.

Because the pharmacy primarily serves the mental health population, one of the main features at the event was a schizophrenia simulator. The goal of the simulator is to provide the general public with a deeper understanding of schizophrenia to help raise awareness of mental illness.

The programs director of Wisconsin for the Family and Children’s Center, Vanessa Southworth, agreed to do the simulation for News 8. It was about ten minutes long, which was long enough for her to realize how hard it would be to deal with the illness on a daily basis

“Well, I haven’t done it yet,” said Southworth.

This was Southworth’s first time trying the schizophrenia simulator.

“I am anticipating that I am going to be hearing and see things that I wouldn’t normally expect,” said Southworth.

Schizophrenia is a disorder that makes it difficult to determine the difference between what is real and what isn’t.

Vanessa prepares for the simulation by putting on a headpiece and headphones and the simulation starts with an individual getting up in the morning.

“I am starting to hear people talking to me,” said Southworth. “It’s telling me not to take my medication.”

Next, the character’s mother arrives to take him to a doctor’s appointment.

“Saying not to trust people,” said Southworth.

Finally, the individual goes to the doctor’s appointment.

“The voices are telling me not to talk to a doctor,” said Southworth.

Vanessa goes through the entire simulation and based on her reaction, it was intense.

“When you have those voices, they are there, you can’t deny that they’re there,” said Southworth.

Although it’s only a simulation for Southworth, you can bet she has a better understanding of what it’s like to live with a mental illness.

“I just couldn’t imagine having to go about my day with someone constantly whispering in my ear,” said Southworth.

By going through the simulation, experts hope people start to understand how difficult it can be for someone to deal with an illness on their own and why it’s so important for them to have support programs out there to help. 

Statistics show about one in every five Americans suffers from some type of mental illness.