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Busting the myths of schizophrenia this World Mental Health Day

Thursday, 9 October 2014

This year’s World Mental Health Day is focusing on raising awareness about schizophrenia and living a healthy life with the condition. 

To support this initiative the Department of Health and Social Care’s Mental Health Service has developed a dedicated webpage to help ‘bust’ five of the most commonly believed myths surrounding the condition, as well as providing educational material and links to help the public to understand the facts about schizophrenia. 

Schizophrenia affects around 26 million people across the world.  It is a mental health problem that affects how people think, feel and behave.  Symptoms can include hallucinations such as hearing voices and other forms relating to vision, taste, smell and touch.  Some people may also experience difficulty with their thinking, affecting their ability to concentrate, with their thoughts seeming jumbled and a tendency to drift from one topic to another.  Other symptoms can include a loss of some thoughts or motivation.  

Not everyone who has schizophrenia experiences the same symptoms.  Some people can experience just positive or negative symptoms whilst some people may experience both. 

1 in 100 people will experience at least one episode of the symptoms of schizophrenia at some time during their lives.  It usually begins during adolescence or early adulthood (14 and 35), but can also affect older people.  It can affect men and woman from all cultural backgrounds and from all walks of life. 

Episodes can be difficult to manage and cope with, both for the person experiencing the symptoms and for their family and friends. There are treatments and interventions available which can help to eliminate or reduce the symptoms and most people will be able to function effectively for significant periods of time and make a good recovery. 

Family and friends have a key role in helping people with schizophrenia to recover and reduce the likelihood of a relapse.  They can be a great source of support both emotionally and practically, encouraging people to seek appropriate support and treatment. 

Michael Coleman MLC, Member for Mental Health Services, said:

'Schizophrenia can be a very upsetting condition for the individual and for their family and friends.  This is often made worse because the condition is often very misunderstood with the majority of people’s knowledge based on myth rather than fact.  The world’s mental health community is continuing its work to change this, with the aim of reducing the stigma associated with the condition whilst at the same time raising awareness about the facts and highlighting the support available. 

'The Mental Health Service here in the Isle of Man has a role to play in this work.  There are currently 212 people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia on the Island who are receiving support and treatment.  When taking into account those individuals, their family and their friends, it becomes clear that this condition touches the lives of many on our Island.  I very much welcome anything we can do to improve public awareness and reduce the stigma of mental health problems.'

The five commonly believed myths about schizophrenia were revealed from a survey of more than 2,000 UK adults in 2011 by the charity Rethink Mental Illness

  • People with schizophrenia have a split personality 
  • People with schizophrenia have the same physical health as everyone else 
  • People with schizophrenia can’t recover  
  • People with schizophrenia need to be monitored at all times  
  • People with schizophrenia are dangerous. 

Julie Bennion, Specialist in Mental Health Promotion, said:

'People with mental health problems experience stigma and discrimination in almost every area of their lives. They are often pre-judged and for many, the stigma of having a mental health problem can be more disabling than the actual symptoms of the illness itself. The myths and negative connotations surrounding schizophrenia can and does lead to stigma and discrimination and can prevent those who experience symptoms of schizophrenia from seeking help. 

'Most people with schizophrenia make a recovery, although many will experience the occasional return of symptoms.  It is important that schizophrenia is diagnosed as early as possible, as the chances of recovery improve the earlier it is treated.  We want to ensure that people with schizophrenia get the best possible care and support to manage their symptoms and to help them recover.  We also want to ensure that family, friends and carers have access to information and support.'

Dr Patricia Crellin, Consultant Psychiatrist, said:

'Schizophrenia is an illness; it does not define the person.  A person is not ‘a schizophrenic’, but rather a person who has schizophrenia who may have individual challenges to maintain their thinking, their emotions, their physical health, their role within the community, their relationships to others and their personhood.  However, people who live with schizophrenia also have a unique perspective on the world and are valued members of society.  People who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia recover; they may be our friends, our co-workers, our teachers, our role models and our family members.'

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