PORTLAND -- With the help of a virtual reality machine, Portland s Adventist Medical Center is teaching employees what it s like to be schizophrenic.

We believe they need to have a better understanding of mental illness so they can provide better care, said Dr. John Custer.

The machine mimics the mind of a schizophrenic person, with multiple images and noises bombarding the viewer.

There s a lot of stimulation and you don t know where to focus, said Adventist employee Scott Conlee. Every voice seems to say something valid, but it s negative.

The technology was brought into the hospital during Mental Health Awareness Week.

On Sunday, Adventist is sponsoring a walk to benefit the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

It s no joke and the stigma of mental illness is horrendous. It keeps people from getting help, said Dr. Custer.

Scott Conlee believes the machine gave him important insight.

We really have to focus on how we interact and explain things and make sure all our patients know they re in a comfortable and safe environment, he said.

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