Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Virtual Hallucinations in Second Life

I visited the Virtual Hallucinations build by James Cook, MD MS, and promptly received a warning and information about the build, it was clearly going to be a pretty harrowing journey!

From a notecard:
“The virtual hallucinations project seeks to educate people about the mental illness schizophrenia.  About 1% of the population will develop schizophrenia during their lifetimes. It usually strikes in the late teens or early twenties, and is very debilitating.
People with schizophrenia have "disordered thought" or difficulty maintaining thought processes. They develop delusions, like the belief that the police are after them. They also experience auditory hallucinations, typically one or more voices speaking to or about them. About 25% of people with schizophrenia also experience visual hallucinations, typically distortions of the environment around them.
This clinic building is based on the hallucinations of two specific people with schizophrenia. They were interviewed in detail and gave feedback on early designs for the hallucinations. While the hallucinations are not glamorous, they fairly accurately reproduce these patients' experiences.  You should get a sense of just how intrusive the voices of schizophrenia really are.”
Nash Baldwin

To walk into a bathroom where one sees themselves dying in the mirror and hears voices saying “You’re dead, dead, dead… “ is chilling and quite disorienting.

 Trying to walk along the corridor on the stepping stones, after the floor has fallen away is weird. I did this several time and even in a virtual world, knowing it is going to happen the dread of the floor falling away and adrenaline rush as it happens is quite odd – I should have no fear of this and it can’t hurt me – but the sudden dread still struck!

In the television lounge the TV started to talk to me, not a program but the voices were coming from it.  I stood listening to the TV talking to me, I was being ordered to get the gun and shoot them (the police) as well as myself, again I know it is not real but was struck by how unpleasant it was. All of the ongoing voices are quite scary…. the voice saying how ugly and worthless I am, the language and the venom with which some things are said, it is all pretty bad!

Seeing the transformation of the “Partnership for Recovery” poster present itself with “Partnershit face Recovery” demonstrating how words get transformed on text makes compulsive watching as is the constant movement of things such as the laptop computers.

This is a very powerful build and gives a pretty disturbing insight into what living with schizophrenia could be like. To visit you need to be a member of Second Life then you can follow this link:

Coincidentally I watched the film A Beautiful Mind again last weekend, being snowed in and looking for something to keep her occupied my daughter put it on. In the film Russell Crowe plays John Forbes Nash Jr., a math prodigy was able to solve the most amazing problems that baffled the greatest of mathematical minds, he should have had everything, but his life was dogged by years of suffering through schizophrenia. Crowe’s portrayal of a man getting to grips with reality is quite amazing, again that was a good reminder of what it is like to live with this disability.

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