One Viroqua resident has taken to social media to educate people about what it’s really like to have schizophrenia.
What first started as blog-like entries to share his experiences has now turned into a mission with a million followers for Kody Green.
Green, who attended Western Technical College, said that early signs of the disorder appeared while in college, including paranoia that he was being watched and then auditory and visual hallucinations. He said that the symptoms quickly worsened once they started.
Green shared that when the disorder first began to develop, he didn’t know the full extent of what was happening. He said that he did not fully know all of the symptoms he was experiencing until his now-wife, who he lived with at the time, explained to him what happened once he was medicated.
His now-wife and his mother were the ones who first made him aware that there were any symptoms at all.
Green did not seek treatment during the first two years of experiencing symptoms — leading to addiction and incarceration.
Once he decided he was ready to get help, he connected with other people who had similar experiences with mental health as he did. After he made that connection and became aware of the disorder he faced, he became more comfortable with the idea of treatment and medication.
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While Green said that friends and family originally helped him power through treatment, now a large part of his strength also comes from his work in mental health advocacy.
Green said, “Actually, me doing this kind of stuff allows me to kind of look back and remember why I take medication and why I continually deal with this.”
He shared that, similar to many people with mental health disorders, he has days where he doesn’t feel like taking his daily medications. But, he said, remembering why and who he’s getting treatment for helps push him to do so.
Green was initially resistant to joining TikTok, but he changed his mind after his wife began sending him links to videos on the platform.
He started to enjoy how the app worked, showing him videos personalized to his interests.
He eventually decided to take his own turn on the app — first uploading random, humorous videos before turning the channel into his own personal blog.
He wasn’t expecting many views, but then a few of his videos went viral.
Now, each week, he receives tens of a thousands of views as he posts videos about his mental health experiences — including videos that sometimes include him in the midst of hallucinations.
He also takes time to answer his viewers’ questions about his experiences.
While schizophrenia is a serious topic, he finds ways to bring some humor to his videos.
“Over the years, there has been a really negative stigma built up about schizophrenia — specifically that people with schizophrenia are dangerous, because when we do see them in the media, they’re often delusional and committing some sort of violent crime,” Green said. “That is such a small percentage of people with schizophrenia, because one in 100 people have schizophrenia, and if you see one of those stories every three to five years and that’s all you ever see about schizophrenia, it can paint a really dangerous image.”
Green continued, “My entire purpose was getting people to log on and think of me whenever they hear the word schizophrenic, instead of thinking of the person they saw on the news who was delusional and committed some sort of heinous crime.”
Green also said he hopes to teach people that schizophrenia is a lifetime illness that can be managed with the help of medication and other forms of treatment.
He also wants people to understand that not everyone with the illness is dangerous.
When he first began to share about his schizophrenia publicly, some distant family members reached out to ask him to stop posting about it and told him it was supposedly embarrassing.
Green, sharing that his mother has schizoaffective disorder, said, “She was my biggest supporter, still is. She always says that I have a million followers, but she’s my biggest fan.”
He still remembers being a teen watching his mother face her diagnosis.
At the time, Green said, it was even more controversial for people to speak about their mental health, and the stigma around the topic put his mother off from getting treatment for many years.
Reflecting on the impact of talking about mental health now and watching his followers grow, Green said, “The cool part for me was being able to be the person that made someone else not feel alone in their struggles.”
He remembers himself feeling very alone when he started getting treatment, so he was able to connect with others who felt similarly.
And his connections with followers have gone beyond simply sending messages back and forth as he has been able to build friendships and travel to meet people with similar passions and experiences. He has also been able to collaborate with others for his advocacy projects.
Now, he’s been able to take his mental health advocacy and passions to the next level with his own nonprofit, a podcast, multiple social media accounts and public speaking.
Green’s nonprofit One Opportunity Hiring helps connect people who have criminal records with employers who are willing to look past the individual’s past and be forward thinkers.
Included in his work in helping those looking for jobs is opportunities like collecting used suits for those who need them for job interviews.
While the pandemic has limited the organization’s ability to be a staffed service, instead making the nonprofit more of a resource, he looks forward to working toward this format once again in the future.
To balance it all, Green remembers to take mental health breaks as needed so he can continue making content that can benefit and educate others.
More about Green and his experiences with mental health can be found on TikTok, Youtube and Instagram, on his podcast The Criminally Mental and on his website kodygreen.com.