One in 100 people will experience schizophrenia; it's not as uncommon as you think. And while attitudes to mental health have changed, the stigma surrounding schizophrenia remains stubbornly high. In our recent survey about stigma and mental illness, three in four people felt that levels of stigma had not changed in the last decade.
What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a very complex condition that can affect how a person thinks, feels, and experiences the world around them. While schizophrenia is an official diagnosis, people can often experience very different symptoms. The most common symptoms can include:
- Audio hallucinations (hearing voices)
- Disorganised thinking
- Changes in body language or emotions
Does schizophrenia mean split personality?
In a word, no. Schizophrenia doesn't mean split personality - the term actually means schizo (to split) and phrene (the mind). Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler first used 'schizophrenia' in 1911 to emphasise the mental confusion and fragmented mental state that many people experiencing the condition felt. Today schizophrenia is widely used, but it is not without controversy. Many people experiencing schizophrenia feel that the term is too broad and should be abandoned.
Why are people living with schizophrenia portrayed as artistic geniuses / dangerous criminals?
Sadly, the media portrayal of people living with schizophrenia has a lot to do with how the condition is perceived today. While Hollywood would like you to believe that many people living with schizophrenia are the evil geniuses hiding in the shadows or the artistic loner whose work sells for millions, the reality is very different. A study conducted by Mind and Victim Support in 2013 found that 45% of people living with severe mental illness had been a victim of crime in the previous year and five times more likely to have been the victim of serious assault compared to their peers.
Likewise, the portrayal of people living with schizophrenia being the tortured artist does not ring true. For many people living with schizophrenia, the experience can be frightening and challenging - and can all too easily lead to years spent navigating the mental health system, the loss of friendships and decades trying to rebuild lost potential.
Can people living with schizophrenia recover?
When we talk about mental illness, we use the term recovery to mean regaining a good quality of life rather than 'being cured'.
For some people, schizophrenia will be a life-long condition that will need day-to-day management. This can often be a combination of medication, talking therapies (such as CBT or actively engaging with their hallucinations) and a good support network. Approximately 1 in 4-5 people with schizophrenia will recover completely and go on to live independently without further episodes.
Living with schizophrenia is not, and should not be, a barrier to employment, personal relationships, and having a good quality of life. You can help us by sharing your thoughts - use the hashtag #NSAD2021 on Twitter and Instagram.
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In this short film, Antonio discusses his experiences with schizophrenia and shares some of the difficulties he has faced.
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