The media has supplied the general population with caricatures and stereotypes of people who have schizophrenia through films, TV and the news. In some cases, it portrays people with the condition being unable to work – this is not true. There are supported employment programs out there that help people with schizophrenia and other mental health problems work in competitive jobs.
For example, in a randomised trial, individuals with schizophrenia performed well in comparison to their counterparts and some outperformed those with other diagnoses. Cook and colleagues believed that it was particularly noteworthy because “at study baseline, individuals with schizophrenia had significantly higher levels of symptoms, greater number of months hospitalised over their lifetimes, younger ages of illness onset, lower education, poorer work histories and lower work motivation than those without schizophrenia.”
Another outdated perception is that individuals with the condition cannot live within the community. Dawn Velligan, Ph.D, professor and co-director of the Division of Schizophrenia and Related Disorders at the Department of Psychiatry at San Antonio, said that they can, providing they have access to the right medication and support.
Schizophrenia does affect people in different ways and just like most mental health problems, it differs in severity. In Elyn Saks case, doctors told her that she wouldn’t be able to hold down a job, find love or live on her own. Yet today she holds the position of Associate Dean and Orrin B. Evans Professor of Law, Psychology and the Behavioral Sciences at the University of Southern California Gould Law School.
Like most mental health problems, there still is a massive stigma attached to schizophrenia. It’s a lonely disease that doesn’t seem to receive that much publicised support.
You don’t have to be a family member to offer help. You can volunteer at mental health organisations and try to help educate people who still perceive mental health problems with such stigma.