Will changing the name of Schizophrenia help to reduce stigma? Some Psychiatrists believe so. Here’s my opinion on the matter.

So, I’ve been reading some information on a group of psychiatrist that think changing the term schizophrenia into psychosis spectrum disorder will destroy the stigma surrounding it. Honestly, if I had to give my opinion on the matter, I think the damage by the media is done, and now all we can do to “destroy” the stigma is to educate, advocate, and show people that people with Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective disorder are not “monsters”.

Changing the name won’t change the fact that people view people that have psychosis as a blemish on society that they can just sweep under the rug and never speak about it. It’s even worse for people that have psychosis and depression/manic episodes in between.

The media has portrayed us as violent monsters in quite a few movies in recent years. Even the movie “A Beautiful Mind” as perfect as it portrays my type of hallucinations (visual and auditory), was exaggerated as to the events quite a bit. Based on the life of a real mathematician that won the Nobel Memorial prize in Economic Sciences for his contributions on game theory, John Nash, there was quite a bit of it that probably never happened. John Nash only really ever had delusions and auditory hallucinations (hearing voices).

So events in the movie that depicted him allowing a fictional “visual hallucination” named Charles to watch his child in the bathtub, and the child almost drowning couldn’t have actually happened. It makes for a dramatic story, but I’d rather have had his memoirs not bastardized by Hollywood.

Back to the point of Hollywood and the media portraying us as monsters. I just read a study (click the link below this post to learn more about the study!) about the media and their portrayal of schizophrenics being the cause of violence and death. Now before I go into the study, let me preface it with it was only done on ten movies (an exceedingly small sample size).

Anyways, In this study, the data gave two averages. One was the average of incidents of violence against other people. And the other was incidents of violence against themselves. The average of incidents of violence against others was 6.1, and the average incidents of violence against themselves is 4.6. These are grossly inaccurate statistics compared to real life. In reality (not some fictional movie world), schizophrenics are MUCH more prone to be violent against themselves.

Generally (and yes I know there are exceptions to the rule, there always are), people with the schizophrenia spectrum disorders try to withdraw away from people and not mingle with the general population. They only really get violent against other people when you try to corner them or “apprehend” them through use of force, especially paranoid schizophrenics. It’s generally always a defense mechanism that causes us to strike out in violent behavior during a psychotic break.

But due to the media (as in the averages of those prominent movies in the study), the general population views people with the schizophrenia spectrum disorder as dangerous, violent, and murderers.

Not to say that there has been NO incidents of those nature’s occurring, but it’s far more likely a person within the schizophrenia spectrum disorder are will hurt themselves before others. And if they do hurt others, it’s generally close family members and caretakers, not strangers. Yes, you do have odd cases of it happening (the waffle house shooter last year), but it is most certainly NOT the norm.

So I hope that after you read this post, the next time someone mentions something bad, scary, or detrimental to their lives about people with the schizophrenia spectrum disorders, you try to correct their thinking. Educate them that the media’s portrayal of us is highly bastardized due to Hollywood’s flair for the dramatic, and that most of us will shy away from the general public. Also, please educate them that if they are ever in a situation where someone with our spectrum of disorders is having a psychotic break to please contact police and ask them if they could send a “Crisis Intervention Team” to the scene to help de-escalate the situation.

The last thing anyone needs to do is exacerbate any dangerous situation by letting untrained police officers and untrained medical personnel near the person. Someone will get hurt, either the police, medical personnel, bystanders or the person themselves. Nothing is solved that way, so please act with compassion in that type of situation, just try to put yourselves in their shoes. Thank you.

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