Why schizophrenia remains so misunderstood

Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Asha Praseedom with her view on the theme of World Mental Health Day 2014

Why schizophrenia remains so misunderstood
10 October 2014

With the focus of this year’s World Mental Health Day being schizophrenia, Dr Asha Praseedom – Consultant Psychiatrist at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust – says that the condition remains greatly misunderstood

Most of us are likely to have caught sight of a newspaper headline similar to this at some point: Schizophrenic patient escapes from psychiatric hospital.

However most of us are unlikely to have read about the 50-year-old mother who suffers from schizophrenia and who has not stepped outside her home for months because she is afraid of her neighbours.

Despite years of sustained effort from mental health charities and agencies like the Royal College of Psychiatrists, schizophrenia unfortunately remains a greatly misunderstood illness.

The forgotten victims of this illness are those that suffer in silence, hidden away in their homes and spending their days in isolation.

There are a wide variety of symptoms in schizophrenia ranging from hallucinatory or “unusual” experiences of various kinds to paranoid beliefs and social isolation.

Men are more likely to develop schizophrenia in their teens and early 20s, and women in their mid to late 20s.

The course of the illness can also take several forms. Most people recover from a first (acute) episode of the illness, but without treatment many go on to have further episodes and a substantial minority of patients have illnesses that take a chronic course.

Studies show that there is a strong genetic element in the causation of schizophrenia; however, environmental factors also play a large role. For instance, some recent studies have shown a strong link between cannabis use and the development of schizophrenia.

There have been many high profile cases in the media of sufferers of schizophrenia who have committed violent acts. However violence is in fact unusual in schizophrenia.

This is why awareness events like World Mental Health Day are so important - to not only raise awareness of conditions such as schizophrenia but also to help dispel some of the myths around it.

The negative effects of this illness can be reduced by a combination of treatment and support, and by compassion and understanding from the society at large.

This column first appeared in the Cambridge News on Monday, 6 October 2013

Ends

For more information please contact:

Andy Burrows
Communications Manager
E andy.burrows@cpft.nhs.uk
T 01223 726767

 

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust
Elizabeth House, Fulbourn Hospital
Cambridge, CB21 5EF

T 01223 219400 (open 8:30am to 5pm)
F 01480 398501

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