June 9th, 2014
11:18 PM ET

Anderson takes part in an experiment to help understand how people live with mental illness

Mental illness often makes headlines after tragedies like last week's deadly shooting at Seattle Pacific University. A number of mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, can cause auditory hallucinations. It's important to know that only a tiny number of people who hear voices engage in violence of any kind. Anderson took part in an experiment to help people understand how others live with mental illness experience everyday. Anderson wore headphones that simulate hearing voices while trying to do everything from puzzles to simply interacting with people in the street.

Clinical psychologist Pat Deegan designed the experiment. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teenager.

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Filed under: Seattle Pacific shooting
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Kat Turner

    After hearing a group of women speak about their struggles with mental illness at Belmont University, Chasing Lovely's Taylor Turner was inspired to write about it. "Out Of My Mind" will never be a radio hit, but it's the song that most moves the audience and gets the most heartfelt comments from people after concerts. Click on this link to listen: https://soundcloud.com/chasinglovely/out-of-my-mind-live-plums

    July 11, 2014 at 11:42 am |
  2. wvlady102

    Good for you for trying this experiement. Schizophrenia is a little understood illness. I was married to a man with this condition for 38 yrs. His condition was not severe so he was able to function in society most of the time. He coped by always trying to be what he thought the other person with him at that time wanted him to be, so he was constantly having to juggle who he was. I don't think he really knew who he was himself. It really became apparent after our daughter was born in 1976, He would constantly worry about other people talking about him behind his back. From there it was a constant downhill struggle. He finally lost the battle in 2009. He had developed Asbestosis from exposure at work, the depression and voices in his head kept him from taking care of himself and doing the things he needed to do to maintain any quality of life. Towards the end he just got tired of it all and gave up! Most people who knew him casually never knew how he struggled to survive every hour of every day. Living in constant fear of society in general.

    July 8, 2014 at 10:13 pm |
  3. chas0327

    My mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was but a child. Also a victim of extreme child abuse the two turned her into a monster when she was psychotic. Her voices told her to hurt her children – particularly me. I lived in terror for ten years of my life before I grew strong enough to keep myself safe. Diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, PTSD, and DID myself later in life just living each day is a significant accomplishment. I am very fortunate to be a very high functioning person or I would not make it. When my own voices came it was petrifying. There is so much ignorance surrounding mental illness. I applaud Anderson for trying to educate himself and others at least a little. There needs to be a national dialogue.

    July 2, 2014 at 3:49 pm |
  4. odalicefeliz

    if you or some one you love have mental illness, make sure you let ur spouse or caretaker know this. This can help a lot. also keep away from drugs and alcohol.

    July 1, 2014 at 6:54 pm |
  5. bettassomichael

    Interesting piece, but are you missing 60 yrs of warfare/ dealing with the vestibular-cochlear nerve and the central nervous system? Just something to think about. Keep them honest Cooper.

    June 27, 2014 at 12:55 am |
  6. Cause

    Reblogged this on In the Garden of the Cyclothymes and commented:
    A decent fascination – Anderson Cooper hearing voices...

    June 13, 2014 at 3:45 pm |
  7. rporter2014

    Today is my baby brother Robert's birthday ( June 11) . He turned 41. He is schizophrenic .One year into his college@ The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, during the summer it happened. He was going to be a music producer. I miss my brother, the very smart human that he was. Despite of it all , I love my brother. He is institutionalized and I don't know where he is. Please pray for my brother and others like him . To see this on his birthday made me cry so much. I never could understand the hell he was living through and now I have such a better understanding. It breaks my heart knowing how he lives on a daily basis. Thank god you do not have to live this.

    June 12, 2014 at 1:51 am |
  8. klwgrace

    I am so thankful the media has been bringing to light what these sufferers are going through. I didn't understand until I educated myself upon my son being diagnosed with schizoaffective at the age of 22. The first time my we heard a simulation of auditory hallucinations my husband and I just looked at each other in disbelief. My first comment was, "my poor son is being tortured" and my husband's comment was, "how has he stood it?" Our son is now 25 and is our hero for has not given up. He definitely is a survivor. Please continue to keep mental health issues in the media. There is a great need for funding and understanding for the sufferers.

    June 11, 2014 at 5:48 pm |
  9. saphira9

    Thanks for this experiment. We do need to draw attention to mental illnesses, and both treatment and support. I have a friend with a rather scary mental condition, and he deals with it by leaning on friends like me. He's sadistic, and enjoys videos of people being tortured or murdered. However, he's never actually hurt anyone, not even the bullies who hurt us both. He has the self-control that mass-murderers do not. Sometimes he's tempted to walk into dark alleys and hurt anyone who tries to mug him, sating his sadistic thoughts with staged self-defense. Instead, he calls us up and just talks it over. He doesn't need medication or a psychologist lumping him in with terrible people who are also sadistic. He needs support (re-enforcement of his self-control), and that's something everyone can learn how to offer.

    June 10, 2014 at 8:02 pm |
  10. spedek

    AC, thank you for tackling this subject. As a public servant, I see mental disabilities daily. Until doctors, insurance companies, and society see mental illness as "illnesses of the brain" like diabetes is an "illness of the pancreas" nothing will change. Your empathy segment helps. Dig deeper. Look into stories like ramblingsofarayven. It can be Pulitzer Prize winning journalism subject matter. Soldiers, VA, prisons, medical/prescription drugs, therapy, psychologist/psychiatrist, hospitals, bio research, etc.

    June 10, 2014 at 7:26 pm |
  11. fancylinda

    As someone who suffers from auditory hallucinations due to PTSD, I was very interested to see this story. However, I was a little disappointed in the way the test was performed. The subject is obviously aware that they are wearing headphones and is expecting to hear voices through them for a specific period of time. I think a more accurate way to experience how it truly feels, is this. Imagine you have no knowledge of the fact that you are participating in a test. Tiny hidden speakers are surreptitiously placed all around your home, workplace, car, and everywhere you travel. Messages are broadcast over these speakers randomly, and you have no idea where they are coming from, or what is going on. You can never locate the speakers, and this goes on indefinitely. It is enough to make any formerly sane person develop extreme anxiety, sleep deprivation, weird conspiracy theories, and a complete loss of faith in what is real and what is not. At least, this is how it has felt like to me. I do appreciate the steps that are being taken to begin to understand mental illnesses, but I think we still have a long way to go.

    June 10, 2014 at 2:47 pm |
  12. Linda

    My essay regarding the labeling and judgement of people who cannot work due to mental illness: http://mslegs28.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/invisible-disabilities/

    June 10, 2014 at 1:30 pm |
  13. Chrisa Hickey

    Reblogging at http://www.themindstorm.net . Thank you for taking part in this experiment. My son lives with auditory hallucinations every day, even on medication. It's amazing how much he can accomplish.

    June 10, 2014 at 11:46 am |
  14. Moorestorms

    Absolutely amazing! I'm so glad the media is beginning to see what living with mental illness is really like. I've been running my own mental illness blog for a little more than 2 years now and have been trying desperately to reach out to others.
    Rebecca Moore

    June 10, 2014 at 9:57 am |
  15. Moorestorms

    Reblogged this on Rebecca Moorestorms and commented:
    This is from Anderson Cooper's blog. I found this extremely interesting!

    June 10, 2014 at 9:55 am |
  16. johnnyvh1

    To Whom it may Concern;
    Excellent story and video. Kudos to AC and Pat Deegan. I did not see the caption on video at first – "Inside Anderson's exercise in empathy" – but was exactly what I was thinking while watching this story. You really out did yourself this time AC and CNN, and in a very humble way. The comment above (the first and only comment before mine here at least) shows how upset people are and also how impulsive and narrow minded the public is through sensational news media with breaking stories and misinformation, then false assumptions laced with truths. At best mixed and contradictory public cries for a better mental health care system.
    AC's experiment was a good one and surely he can think on his feet fast enough without being hindered mentally. Having mental disorders should never be a life sentence for any individual nor single them out like a criminal. Imagine being faced with and encumbered by auditory hallucinations (never mind visual hallucinations as well) constantly and how "exhausting" that alone would be. I know some very intelligent schizophrenics too that just could not pas a written exam if there life depended on it yet could blow you away with their knowledge. This experiment was done very respectfully and provided a very good example of what it could be like to be hindered with schizophrenia. However, it is only momentarily distracting at best to a healthy minded adult and entirely frustrating, yet also momentarily so, at worse to another healthy adult.
    Regardless of the opinions here, I say terrific reporting.
    thank you

    June 10, 2014 at 5:11 am |
  17. ramblingsofarayven

    o my question now is do you, Anderson Cooper 360, have a little more understanding in to how some of these people that have committed some of the horrible crimes that have garnered national attention over the last few years got to the point they did and why they may have done so? Not everyone who commits these atrocities is mentally ill, but there have been a few that have clearly been so. It is time for the rest of society to wake up and begin to realize that we have a severe mental health crisis on our hands, it is time to stop pointing fingers and trying to place blame on the parents, family, friends etc and for everyone to stand up and say enough is enough and seek changes to the mental health care system. We have gone from one extreme of locking everyone who didn't fit in to society in mental institutions to the opposite extreme of very little (and in some cases nonexistent) and inconsistent services, most of which don't work any way. There needs to be a happy medium, instead of waiting days, and in some cases weeks in emergency rooms for beds to become available because hospitals keep eliminating psychiatric beds, there needs to be more beds made available. Imagine being 14 years old and spending 3 days in an ER waiting for a bed, getting no meds except the occasional Ativan to keep you calm, only to be taken almost 3 hours away from your friends and family BY POLICE CAR, in handcuffs, to get treatment, and then once there being told that you are only allowed 1-2 visits a week for 20 minutes. If this was any other illness you'd be allowed daily visits, phone calls etc but because you have a mental illness you are treated like the worst kind of criminal, despite having not committed a crime and asking for help! What I just described is exactly what happened to my son 2 months ago! He has Bipolar disorder and we are in the process of having him evaluated for Autism Spectrum Disorder and possible brain damage that he may have suffered at birth. I've seen it happen to my daughter twice as well, she has suffered 2 psychotic breaks and had to be hospitalized because the voices were telling her to hurt herself and others. This is a national crisis and until more people try to understand it is only going to get worse before it gets better.

    June 10, 2014 at 2:58 am |

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