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Trying to explode myths about schizophrenia

Posted on 22 November 2011 | 7:11am

If you listen to local radio, there is a chance you might hear me today, as I am heading for a marathon local radio session to talk about a new report on schizophrenia.

Rethink Mental Illness have commissioned a survey which has exposed the widespread belief in the continuing myths surrounding one of the most misunderstood illnesses in the country.

More than half of people believe schizophrenia means the sufferer ‘has a split personality.’ Not true. 49 per cent believe people with schizophrenia have the same physical health as everyone else – in truth their lifespan is likely to be much shorter. 42 per cent people it is an illness from which it is impossible to recover – many do. 26 per cent believe people with schizophrenia need to be ‘monitored at all times’ – many are actually able to hold down jobs. And 15 per cent believe people with schizophrenia ‘are dangerous.’

The work I do with the Time to Change campaign is all about changing attitudes and the survey shows how far we have to go before as a country we have proper understanding of mental illness. The problem with these particular myths is that they fuel stigma which leads to discrimination which can make things even worse for those already dealing with the consequences of a horrible illness.

The violence myth is largely created by the reporting of high profile cases involving mentally ill people who turn violent. I am not suggesting these incidents should not be reported. But the manner of the reporting tends to reinforce the link between the illness and the violence, and without any proper contextualisation. This myth is particularly toxic as the mentally ill are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.

Today’s report gives the media an opportunity to set some of the context, and explode some of the myths. Local radio, looking at the long list of interviews planned for today, seems willing to play its part. Let’s see if any of the national papers, so keen to present themselves right now as wholesome and healthy contributors to the national debate and the public interest, do so.

  • Labels damage and define – for people  to think for more than a nano second and see the individual and not an itimised identifiable definition is a war of attrition.
    The plural of “anecdote” is not data. Generalisation are grotesque. Such were phrases I used as a teacher. Were I in a position to apply for paid work now, how far through a C.V. would a prospective employer read after encountering the joyous term schizoaffective disorder?
    I wish you the very best in your Herculean task today.

  • Anonymous

    I believe that schizophrenia along with HIV are the most misrepresented conditions in terms of media coverage. I sincerely hope that your work on this has a positive impact. Well done and good luck with it! 

  • Mr Campbell,
     
    Excellent of you to get involved with Rethink; they are a great bunch of people who do good work. I have done some media volunteer work with them and, nice as it is to hear one’s own voice on the radio, it is far better to know you are increasing understanding of a horrible illness that lots of people, myself included, suffer from. Thank you for your support with this.

  • Richard

    Whilst there are high profile souls such as yourself and Stephen Fry who command a hearing in the media, and are prepared to talk of your own mental health, there is some hope that the public may change their attitudes towards mental illness.
    The main problem is that governments recognise the costs involved in properly addressing mental welfare, say they cannot afford it, and sweep the whole issue to one side.
    The public are nowadays conditioned into turning blind eyes to any form of illness, imperfection or minority . Otherwise next week’s march would not be about public sector pensions, but governments treatment of the old, the mentally ill and the institutionally poor.

  • Olli Issakainen

    I am currently listening to BBC Leeds. While doing so, here are some facts about the British media.
    News International (Times, Sunday Times, Sun) is owned by Rupert Murdoch´s News Corporation.
    Andrew Knight sits on the board of News Corp. He is currently non-executive chairman of J Rothschild Capital Management.
    Andrew Knight is the former editor of the Economist.
    Pearson owns 50% of the Economist. Other owners include Rothschilds. Evelyn de Rothschild was the chairman of the Economist between 1972-89.
    The chairman of Pearson is Glen Moreno who has links to Lloyds (Rothschilds) and Fidelity International (Rothschilds).
    Majorie Scardino, the chief executive of Pearson, has links to the MacArthur Foundation.
    Biggest owner of Pearson is Legal & General Group (Rothschilds).
    Pearson publishes the Financial Times.
    James Murdoch is the chairman of BSkyB. Jacques Nasser, a director of BSkyB, is the chairman of BHP Billiton (Rothschilds). Capital Research owns 6% of BSkyB, BlackRock 4.9% and the Capital Group 3.1%.
    All of these are companies of Rothschilds.
    ITV plc is owned by BlackRock (11%), AXA (4%) and Legal and General Investment Management (3.9%).
    AXA and Legal and General are also companies of the Rothschilds.
    Marcus Agius, the chairman of Barclays (Rothschilds), is on the executive board of BBC.
    Lord Patten is the chairman of the BBC Trust. He is also a member of David Rockefeller´s Trilateral Commission.
    Professor Timothy Garton Ash, who writes for the Guardian, is a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
    Evelyn de Rothschild was also a director of the Daily Telegraph.
    Chatham House is a sister organisation of CFR. Corporate members of Chatham House include Barclays Capital, City of London, The Economist, Goldman Sachs International, HSBC, Nomura International and Rio Tinto plc.
    We live in a small world.
    David Cameron has criticized the relationship between politicians and the media.
    It think it is a healthy state of affairs to know who owns British media companies, and what are the connections between the banking families and the politicians. 

  • Mark Wright

    In the past couple of years I have noticed that people in my social circle are far more comfortable when discussing mental illness and depression. What used to be discussed in a whisper is now talked about in the same manner that an individual would discuss their recovery from a broken leg.

    The veil of perceived shame and embarrassment *is* slowly being lifted and attitudes are changing. This is in no small part to the work of high profile figures such as yourself. Thank you.

  • I’m starting PhD research in January into the use of smart phone technology in mental illness, including schizophrenia. I’m already staggered by the myths I’m encountering.

  • Anna

    As you say, Alastair, violence perpetrated by schizophrenia sufferers is very low, though usually horribly blown out of proportion in the press. It is saddening, though, when such attacks do take place, that one often reads of the desperation of families who have recognised the deteriorating mental state of their son/brother or whatever, have feared he/she might ultimately resort to violence and yet have been unable to persuade the powers that be to ensure that the patient was in a secure environment at periods when the illness is in an acute state. They often say that disaster could have been avoided had they been listened to. Families who are supporting a mentallylative need to have access to immediate professional help to manage difficult periods.

  • Ehtch

    What baffles me is the lack of studies seen between mental health problems and immune system dysfunction, as evident in many autoimmune system medical problems, as for instance with multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and a whole host of other disorders. Many depressions and more serious mental health disorders can be triggered by having an immune system giving erratic responses to environmental triggers, even with simple things as dust and food allergy reactions.

  • Ehtch

    Inverted Welsh “video” Christmas card now sent from me, early, since the Pagan Christmas is actually either 21st or 22nd of December, depending how the sun shines through those bluestones, on that flatland of Wiltshire. Anyway, to all my new brilliant friends here, Ivor the Ironhorse, and some sheep friends too,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lI3GbYu6C1A
    By the way, I have noted a low that is suspiciously going west to east towards northern Norway, which can only mean snow within a couple of weeks. Mark my words – WITHIN A COUPLE OF WEEKS!

  • Ehtch

    Inverted Welsh “video” Christmas card now sent from me, early, since the Pagan Christmas is actually either 21st or 22nd of December, depending how the sun shines through those bluestones, on that flatland of Wiltshire. Anyway, to all my new brilliant friends here, Ivor the Ironhorse, and some sheep friends too,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lI3GbYu6C1A
    By the way, I have noted a low that is suspiciously going west to east towards northern Norway, which can only mean snow within a couple of weeks. Mark my words – WITHIN A COUPLE OF WEEKS!

  • MicheleB

    It’s amazing Olli that you stay so enthused about listing / re-organising random facts every day during your ever-lengthening nights and ascribing some linkage other than their being a bunch of highly-paid or hereditary-rich who meet in secret for the ultimate in private conversation.

    I wonder how the likers would feel if compared to the likers of these broadcasts:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yi_M7MahCbo   

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-r4DGx04gI&feature=related

    I can’t believe that the secret talks are as sinister as (must just be bored) conspiracy theorists do; if they were perhaps we would have been advised by now by Mr Balls, Mr Hutton, Mr Blair or a few others that have attended whose beliefs and hopes for a better future for their and others’ children we have no reason to mistrust.

  • MicheleB

    It’s amazing Olli that you stay so enthused about listing / re-organising random facts every day during your ever-lengthening nights and ascribing some linkage other than their being a bunch of highly-paid or hereditary-rich who meet in secret for the ultimate in private conversation.

    I wonder how the likers would feel if compared to the likers of these broadcasts:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yi_M7MahCbo   

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-r4DGx04gI&feature=related

    I can’t believe that the secret talks are as sinister as (must just be bored) conspiracy theorists do; if they were perhaps we would have been advised by now by Mr Balls, Mr Hutton, Mr Blair or a few others that have attended whose beliefs and hopes for a better future for their and others’ children we have no reason to mistrust.

  • Whatifwhatif

    Maybe it’s time for the condition to be renamed?  

    The crude title and its Greek roots do seem to be more harmful than helpful.

  • Whatifwhatif

    Maybe it’s time for the condition to be renamed?  

    The crude title and its Greek roots do seem to be more harmful than helpful.

  • MicheleB

    Grrrrrr, ID switched as my last went through in to the pipeline 🙁

  • MicheleB

    Grrrrrr, ID switched as my last went through in to the pipeline 🙁

  • Ehtch

    totally of topic, Alastair. Pretty poor show by the BBC that haven’t put up a clip of you accepting your gong before the Burnley v. Leeds game last Saturday. I might complain to the press complaints commission about this, because if it was a tory winning it, like, say, Michael Portillo, it would be straight on there, no doubt, like the proverbial shot.
    Anyway, good intro to the Burnley v. Leeds game by beeb though, by a somewhat miracle though, with all the left-field Leeds massive of then, Clarke, Bremner, Lorimar, etc., etc.. Three days left to watch, says beeb iPlayer,
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b017gzct/Match_of_the_Day_Live_2011_2012_Burnley_v_Leeds_United/

  • Ehtch

    totally of topic, Alastair. Pretty poor show by the BBC that haven’t put up a clip of you accepting your gong before the Burnley v. Leeds game last Saturday. I might complain to the press complaints commission about this, because if it was a tory winning it, like, say, Michael Portillo, it would be straight on there, no doubt, like the proverbial shot.
    Anyway, good intro to the Burnley v. Leeds game by beeb though, by a somewhat miracle though, with all the left-field Leeds massive of then, Clarke, Bremner, Lorimar, etc., etc.. Three days left to watch, says beeb iPlayer,
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b017gzct/Match_of_the_Day_Live_2011_2012_Burnley_v_Leeds_United/

  • Ehtch

    With Multiple Sclerosis, it suggests a Vitamin D problem, a vitamin created in the skin with mid-day sunlight in the summer, or intake of quite a bit of oily fish if you tend to stay indoors, or if you are from Northern Norway. That is why youngsters in Norway take Cod Liver oil by law in Norway in the winter, as under sixteens used to have milk at school in this country.

  • Ehtch

    With Multiple Sclerosis, it suggests a Vitamin D problem, a vitamin created in the skin with mid-day sunlight in the summer, or intake of quite a bit of oily fish if you tend to stay indoors, or if you are from Northern Norway. That is why youngsters in Norway take Cod Liver oil by law in Norway in the winter, as under sixteens used to have milk at school in this country.

  • Eugene

    Informed blog Alastair, well done

  • Patricia Shepherd

    I’m a bit late here Alastair but can you give me any tips where I can watch your documentary cracking up ?
       I have searched the BBC site.also youtube to no avail.
      Many thanks if you can.

  • Ehtch

    Well, I told you so, snow, Scotland and on top Snowdonia and Daily Mail reported parts,
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2069125/Englands-snowfall-Cumbria-way-weekend.html

    And no, I am not some lost brit shamen with connections to Merlin, maybe….

  • Ehtch

    Jim from 1970, Beano annual book annual then at xmas which was very snowy I recall when young,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrZDFd_9O6M

    Dylan from around 1920, when a child, in two parts,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qbx9d-vUGHw
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AH28eBEfnJU

  • And have nay of the national papers contributed? does anybody know?