Schizophrenia Awareness Week
May 20th marks the start of Schizophrenia Awareness Week which aims to educate and reduce stigma surrounding the condition. There are still many misconceptions about schizophrenia and it continues to be a mental health condition 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 who is affected by 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.
Research suggests that 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.
- Periods of psychosis: which can include delusions, hallucinations, disordered thinking, disorder behaviour
- 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. They may only experience one symptom or a combination of several 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, 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 has schizophrenia
- someone who has a diagnosis of or is currently experiencing or is being treated for…
- a person 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 are in need of immediate help please contact the following 24/7 Support Services:
Life Line – 13 11 14
Beyondblue – 1300 224 636
Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800
Mensline – 1300 78 99 78
Mental Health Crisis Care – 1800 199 008
If you have a loved one living with schizophrenia we can help. We offer counselling, respite and support groups for loved ones and can also provide NDIS support for those living with a mental health condition. Call us on 9427 7100 or complete the contact form.
Mental Health First Aid Manual 4th Edition