Schizophrenia is a genetic disease that is not common. It affects just 1 percent of Americans.

Even though it affects a small number of the population, it's ramifications are huge.

People with schizophrenia have an imbalance of brain chemicals. It's those chemicals that stimulate nerve cells in the brain to communicate with each other.

Rather than being able to think clearly and process emotions, people with schizophrenia face delusions, thought disorders and depression. If the despair and fear escalate, some people look at suicide as a way to end the torment.

If treated properly, however, those who have schizophrenia can have fulfilling and productive lives.

When Roberta Payne, Ph.D, first experienced schizophrenic symptoms, her mind told her that she was evil. She thought she was under the control of aliens. She became depressed and became an alcoholic. She didn't truly understand the scope of her mental disease.

As the letters 'Ph.D' after the name suggest, Payne is brilliant. She received her undergraduate degree from Stanford University. However, at the age of 22, Payne had a psychiatric break.

While receiving care during the 1960s, Payne was told she would never be able to achieve much because of her mental illness.

That could not have been more far from the truth.

Payne received a Master's Degree in romance languages from Harvard, a Master's Degree in Italian from UCLA and a holds a doctorate in comparative literature from the University of Denver. She shared all that knowledge by becoming a teacher.

In 1985, during a visit to Denver's Tattered Cover Bookstore, she realized, after looking through some medical books, that she might have schizophrenia.

Payne sought help, received the diagnosis and started proper medication and therapy.

In most cases, and in Payne's case, schizophrenia can present itself in late adolescent or early adulthood. Women present symptoms later than men.

Payne is under the care of Dr. Robert Freedman, the chairman of psychiatry at the University of Colorado Anschutz.

"Roberta is able to accomplish so much yet still be ill at the same time," Dr. Freedman said.

Freedman works at the The Schizophrenia Center in the Department of Psychiatry at UC School of Medicine. There, investigations are ongoing to develop new and improved treatments for adult and childhood onset schizophrenia.

Roberta Payne has told her story to upwards of 1,500 students at the medical school. She is focused on sharing her story so that she can help others.

Payne wrote a book entitled "Speaking to My Mindness: How I Searched for Myself in Schizophrenia."

Payne also currently works with young people at the Mental Health Center of Denver.

If you or someone you know needs help with a mental illness, call 1-844-493-TALK (8255).

Here are some additional resources:
Colorado Crisis Services
Mental Health Colorado
National Institute of Mental Health