Schizophrenia Awareness Week
Between 20 – 27 May 2019, Australia acknowledges Schizophrenia Awareness Week which aims to educate and reduce stigma surrounding schizophrenia. There are still many misconceptions about schizophrenia and it continues to be a mental health challenge that is rarely spoken about.
Often, someone with schizophrenia is portrayed in the media and through film and television as dangerous or violent, however, this is not the case. A person living with schizophrenia is not more dangerous than anyone else, however they are more likely to be victims of violence.
Contrary to common belief, living with schizophrenia does not mean you have multiple personalities. The term schizophrenia comes from the Greek word “fractured mind” and refers to changes in mental function.
1 in 100 people will experience schizophrenia and men are about twice as likely to develop the condition than women. Symptoms tend to develop during the late teens to mid-30s.
One of the main symptoms of schizophrenia is recurring psychosis. A person experiencing psychosis finds it hard to tell what is real from what isn’t.
People living with schrizophrenia often experience psychotic episodes — short periods of intense symptoms. If a person experiences psychosis only once in their life (single episode), most likely they don’t have schizophrenia. If they experience psychosis frequently (after treatment it reoccurs), they might get diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The main symptoms of psychosis are:
- delusions — fixed false beliefs that can’t be changed by evidence
- hallucinations — hearing voices or otherwise sensing things that aren’t real
- disordered thinking — muddled, disrupted thoughts that can be expressed through speech
- disordered behaviour — unusual, inappropriate or extreme actions
- low motivation
- inability to express emotion or feel pleasure
- problems with attention, memory, verbal and mental functions
If someone is diagnosed with schizophrenia it does not mean they will experience all of the above symptoms. It is important to remember that someone living with schizophrenia can have a very different experience to another individual living with schizophrenia.
Like many mental illnesses, schizophrenia doesn’t have one single cause, it can be caused by a variety of factors including genetic predisposition, which can be exacerbated by stress, trauma or drug use. However, through treatment the condition is manageable.
Kath Day works in Individualised Services at HelpingMinds and has worked with several clients who live with schizophrenia, she believes there is still a long way to go when it comes to removing the stigma associated with the condition.
The stigma surrounding this diagnosis endures in the greater community despite mental health awareness efforts. Two of the most important things to my clients are acceptance of them as a whole person and connection with community. Symptoms and behaviour that comes with mental distress is still not understood by many. People in the community still fear my clients who are often treated as if they are ‘mad, bad or sad’. Fear is possibly the biggest barrier experienced by my clients followed by not being accepted for who they are – mental ill-heath and all. My experience stresses the importance of accepting individuals as human beings in all their joy, sadness, ill-health and strengths. People with diagnoses of schizophrenia are at their best when part of a community and given the space and opportunity to participate and contribute as citizens.”
Language is very important when it comes to breaking down the stigma associated with mental health, especially misunderstood conditions such as schizophrenia. Here is a list of out dated language that should be avoided and some alternatives.
- psycho or schizo
- a schizophrenic
- lunatic or nutter or unhinged or maniac or mad
- a person suffering from or a sufferer or victim
- prisoners or inmates (in a psychiatric hospital)
- released (from a hospital)
- happy pills
- a person who has experienced psychosis or a person who lives with schizophrenia
- someone who has a diagnosis of or is currently experiencing or is being treated for schizophrenia
- a person living with a mental health problem
- mental health patients or people with mental health problems
- patients or service users or clients
- antidepressants or medication or prescription drugs
If you have a loved one living with schizophrenia, we can help. We offer counselling, support groups and advocacy for loved ones and can also provide NDIS support for those living with mental health challenges. Call us on 9427 7100 or complete the contact form.
If you are in need of immediate help please contact the following 24/7 Support Services:
Life Line – 13 11 14
Mental Health Emergency Response Line – 1300 555 788
Beyondblue – 1300 224 636
Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800
Mensline – 1300 78 99 78
Mental Health Crisis Care – 1800 199 008
Mental Health First Aid Manual 4th Edition