World Schizophrenia Day: Towards awareness and acceptance - Hindustan Times
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World Schizophrenia Day: Towards awareness and acceptance

ByHindustan Times
May 24, 2023 10:46 AM IST

This article is authored by Dr. Debanjan Barnerjee, consultant neuropsychiatrist, Apollo 24|7 and Apollo Multispecialty Hospitals, Kolkata.

Schizophrenia is one of the severe mental disorders, which is often ‘labelled’ in society. It is one among the most disabling and economically burdening diseases as it mostly affects young adults in the productive age group. One in every 100 people experiences schizophrenia and men are twice as likely to develop this condition as compared to women. People with this condition have double the risk of death due to suicide than the general population. Along with mental well-being, this disorder also affects a person’s social and occupational life. Most of the time, they are isolated or worse, get thrown out of families due to caregiver frustration or poor understanding of the illness. Persons with schizophrenia are often seen as dangerous, violent or psychopathic by many when in fact, the opposite is true. A person with schizophrenia is not more dangerous than anyone else, rather they often fall victims to violence, abuse and fraud themselves. They are more likely to harm themselves and are aggressive only when provoked or ridiculed. Often, the affected person may not have the awareness to seek professional help on her own. This is what makes our awareness about this disease all the more important.

People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality, which can cause significant distress for the individual, their family and friends.(Pixabay)
People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality, which can cause significant distress for the individual, their family and friends.(Pixabay)

The term schizophrenia comes from the Greek words schezein (to split) and phrenos (mind), which roughly translates to splitting of the mind. It intends to describe the separation of daily functions from the way a person thinks, speaks and perceives the world. It is in that way, a disorder of the processes of mind and thinking. People affected often have their own ‘imagined’ world in which they live and believe, detached from reality. Schizophrenia is not entirely genetic, though the presence of this illness in the family plays a role.

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The symptoms of schizophrenia are broadly muttering to oneself (they may hear voices in the absence of any) and having false unshakeable beliefs that cannot be changed by evidence. These are termed as ‘hallucinations’ and ‘delusions’ respectively. They may feel people are conspiring against them, they may have disrupted thoughts which can be expressed only through incomprehensible speech or unusual behaviour. There can also be another set of symptoms like poor emotional response or expression, poor self-care/personal hygiene, withdrawn behaviour, attention, concentration and memory issues. Research however shows patients of schizophrenia are rarely violent.

Although schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder, it is eminently treatable. Specific medications called anti-psychotics are used for its treatment. This should be started early, along with psychological counselling that can help an individual suffering from schizophrenia recover completely. More than two-thirds can improve significantly with proper treatment. Patients need to continue medication and treatment as per their doctors’ advice and stay in regular touch with health care professionals. Contrary to the popular belief, these medicines are not addictive and do not damage the brain. Research shows that the rate of recurrence is higher if the medicines are stopped suddenly and hence it is vital to have regular discussions with the doctor.

The earlier the treatment starts, the better it is. Besides medication, vocational rehabilitation is vital. Besides reduction of the symptoms of schizophrenia, individuals need to regain their jobs, relationships and daily life activities for a holistic recovery. Community acceptance and overcoming stigma are vital for those living with schizophrenia to make a recovery.

Awareness, identification and care are the three main pillars of managing any mental disorder. Community awareness about the early signs of the illness, sensitising the family members and primary health care workers are extremely important in this regard. All levels of stakeholders need to assume collective responsibility, and the media has an integral role to play in it. Authentic information-education-communication (IEC) material can be referred to for detailed information and can be found on the official websites of the National Institute of Mental Health, United States, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, NIMHANS, Bengaluru and other national institutes.

This article is authored by Dr. Debanjan Barnerjee, consultant neuropsychiatrist, Apollo 24|7 and Apollo Multispecialty Hospitals, Kolkata.

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