Stigma And Schizophrenia: How It Hurts And How You Can Handle It?

When it comes to mental illness, there are many misconceptions, preconceived notions, stereotypes, and prejudices.  People fear mental illness, and there is still a  great deal of stigma and discrimination, as anyone dealing with mental illness knows.

For people suffering from schizophrenia, the problem is particularly severe.  There is a great deal of discrimination, stigma, and fear around this specific mental illness, as well as many misconceptions.

For people who seek out schizophrenia treatment, the outlook is positive.  In addition, getting lots of support and help from family, friends and the community is essential for success.

Stigma And Schizophrenia

What Is Schizophrenia?

Briefly, schizophrenia is a brain disorder that affects males and females and generally shows up in the late teens or early twenties.  It affects an estimated 1% of the population.  The symptoms that people are most familiar with include visual and auditory hallucinations, however, there are other symptoms as well, including difficulty focusing, memory problems, confusion, lack of energy and lack of emotion.

Schizophrenia has five subtypes: Paranoid schizophrenia, catatonic schizophrenia, disorganized schizophrenia and residual schizophrenia.  Schizophrenia is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic factors as well as environmental factors, although no one knows precisely what causes it.

Schizophrenia may cause people to behave in unpredictable or seemingly bizarre ways.  For the person who struggles with the symptoms of schizophrenia, life can be frustrating, lonely and frightening.  While medication may help alleviate symptoms and there are services that can help persons with schizophrenia manage their disorder, not all people have access to these services.  The level of discrimination and stigma that still exists presents a huge barrier for people who need help.

Misconceptions And Stigma 

One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding people with schizophrenia is that they are dangerous.  Having a mental illness is not a crime, and most people with schizophrenia are not violent.  In fact, only a very small percentage of all violent crimes are perpetrated by a person with schizophrenia.  The belief that people with schizophrenia are dangerous is just an example of misinformation and discrimination.

People often react to persons with schizophrenia by ridiculing them, acting openly afraid, calling them “weirdos” or “crazy” or other derogatory terms or simply pretending not to see them.  This increases the feelings of loneliness, isolation, and frustration commonly experienced by people with schizophrenia.

While there are some people with schizophrenia who have symptoms  so severe that they are unable to care properly for themselves, most are capable of working, learning and living their lives just like anyone else.  Getting schizophrenia treatment early on can help ensure that symptoms are managed.

What Can You Do To End The Stigma?

If you have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, it’s important that you learn to advocate for yourself, and it’s important that you get plenty of support.  If you feel that you have been discriminated against as a result of your mental illness, you can get help.  This includes areas such as housing, employment, education and medical or psychiatric care.  No individual or organization has the right to discriminate against you.  Too often, people allow this type of discrimination to take place, but the more often you stand up for your rights and the rights of others, the more things will change.

You can also help by educating friends, family, and others.  Share information about schizophrenia and mental illness in general.  People don’t know what they don’t know, so if you have an opportunity to share information, do so.

If you are the friend or family member of someone with schizophrenia, be an advocate for them.  Show support and educate yourself and others.  Don’t be a part of the problem, be a part of the solution.

Self-Care Is Important

For people with schizophrenia, self-care is important.  If your symptoms begin to worsen, you may need to get help from a schizophrenia treatment center.  Caring for your health by eating right, getting exercise and staying away from drugs and alcohol can help reduce symptoms.