More thoughts on Violence and the Media’s portrayal of people with Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders

So, today, I’d like to continue discussing schizophrenia spectrum disorder and the violence from and against people who have this disorder portrayed in the media. Specifically a 1998 horror film called “Strangeland” in which they have the main villain/character as a delusional schizophrenic that goes by the name of Captain Howdy, And has a penchant for torture and body modifications/piercings.

I’ve never seen the movie honestly, but it also goes to a though that back then I wouldn’t have thought existed as the World Wide Web was seemingly in its infancy with the public. But that’s how he apparently got his victims and got them to agree to meet with him, through online interactions. It also speaks to a dangerous trend both for schizophrenics and people that might wish to use their weakness for their own pleasures or advantages.

But this movie portrays quite a bit of torturous violence and I had trouble just reading it, knowing that they set a dangerous precedent in the media by portraying someone with schizophrenia like that. And it’s not the first film to have done that. There are others. Donny Darko comes to mind, but I can’t remember how much violence “Donny” used against others. I definitely remember the rabbit man in the movie scaring the shit out of me and giving me hallucinations of a similar manner when I was a teenager. It’s definitely not a movie I’d watch again. And one I definitely don’t recommend anyone with a mental disorder watch because it’s seriously effed up.

I guess this blog post will include a little more than content of “Strangeland”, but if you want a uhm… insight as to what my schizophrenia was mostly like? Look none other than to “Suckerpunch”. In that movie it portrays a young woman in a mental institute, that when she dances in there, it completely alters her perception of reality and brings her into a whole new one. A more high fantasy adventurous action packed reality where she was nearly limitless in what she could do. That was me as a teenager after my mother died. Her death fractured my reality so badly that I was literally leading a double life.

There was me, a teenager just starting junior high school, then there was me, Robert, with three friends that were named, Pescado, Branch, and Vincent. They were with me side by side most days, and they made sure I kept what I was doing in their world, their dimension under wraps from the people of the real world or 3rd dimension as they called it. As my first therapist told me and my dad, it’s like a permanent LSD trip that I was experiencing. That same therapist had estimates that if my dad and step-Mom hadn’t sought therapy for me, in six months I’d have been out on the streets. And thinking back on it? He was probably right.

And that’s a lot of the problem with these movies. People see them young, when they are impressionable, getting these ideas in their heads that somehow, someway, if they ever come across a schizophrenic that we are to be feared as psychopathic killers, that torture people, or that we go to these effed up insane asylums where they mistreat us, and we go into these alternate realities, and lose complete control over everything. Well, the latter is partially true. At least in my case it was. There are varying degrees to schizophrenia, hence some psychiatrists wanting to rename it psychosis spectrum disorder. Doesn’t matter the name though, the stigma will still be presented in the media to satisfy humanity’s need for drama. There will instead be movies about psychotic killers that will be said to have psychosis spectrum disorder. And the cycle will continue. That’s why it needs to end.

People need to understand the truth about us, they need to know that even though there is a slightly, and I mean SLIGHTLY (as in 2-4% above the normal populace’s 2% of people that are prone to violent tendencies), doing the math that is approximately 4-6% of the schizophrenic population that is at a higher risk for violence towards others. 1% of the worlds population is estimated to have some form of the schizophrenia spectrum disorder, which means approximately 70-75 million people have the tendency. For this equation we’ll use 75 million.

So, of that 75 million, 4% have violent tendencies towards others. 6% towards themselves. But I’m only concerned with the number of the “towards others” right now. Yes, the “towards themselves” is very important, and they definitely need help too, if not more than the “towards others” group. Anyways, 4% of 75 million is 3 million. 3 million of the 7.5 billion people in the world. That is .04% of the world that has a schizophrenia spectrum disorder and has violent tendencies. Remember that number. Also remember 1/2500. That’s the chances of running into a person that has schizophrenia and has violent tendencies. The number is probably MUCH lower than that given those schizophrenics are only violent when having an active episode (generally).

Just taking that 1/2500 chance of running into a schizophrenic that has violent tendencies, you have more of a chance (in the USA), of: “unintentional poisoning and exposure by a noxious substance” (1/70), “drug poisoning” (1/75), “opioids including both legal and illegal”(1/109), “all motor vehicle accidents” (1/102), “dying as a car occupant in a motor vehicle accident” (1/583), “dying as a motor cyclist in a motor vehicle accident” (1/846), “dying as a pedestrian in a motor vehicle accident” (1/561), “assault by firearm” (1/285), “exposure to smoke, fire, flames” (1/1506), And “fall on and from stairs and steps” (1/1754). (All statistics taken from the Insurance Information Institute.) and those are chances of dying. So a persons chances of a violent encounter, much less dying from one, are EXTREMELY ASTRONOMICALLY low.

So the portrayal of the victims of a schizophrenic psychopath named Captain Howdy in the movie, Strangeland? They won’t be you. Or… anyone you know. And probably nobody that anyone you know, knows. Or anyone they know, knows. Even though those are just estimates. But the point is, you shouldn’t watch these movies and think, “Oh, if I end up meeting someone with the schizophrenia spectrum of disorders, I’m going to be the victim of horrible torture or violence and possibly death”.

Instead, if you meet someone with one of the schizophrenia spectrum disorders, please, act with empathy and compassion. Don’t corner them with hate and malice. If you do, your making the risk of your fears coming true sky rocket. If they are actively in a state of psychosis, and they have extremely odd off the wall thoughts, or they tell you and you believe them to be serious, let them know that there are people out there that can help them, and that you’re one of them.

Reassure them that you’ll help them get through whatever it is that they are experiencing. Act with compassion. And if they do get violent? Don’t call the police, call an ambulance. Tell them what you know and that you think they might be having a psychotic episode. Ask for a trained mental health professional to assist in getting them the immediate assistance they need. If you do call the police, ask for the same thing. Try to remain compassionate towards them and know that what they are going through is only temporary, and it can be fixed and reoccurrences can be avoided.

All we ever want is for someone to help bring us back to reality. The scared voices and shadows we see? You honestly think we enjoy getting shot in the head and waking up thinking there is a bullet lodged in your brain for an hour? I was lucky that my dad was around that morning and that I was so scared that he would find out about the other dimensions, that I kept silent, and ignored the pain in my head, until I was able to get out of the house, and one of my hallucinations was able to remove the “bullet” from my skull. In the playhouse. In my dad’s back yard. The short answer is, did I ask for any of this to ever happen for me? Did I want it? No, this was the last thing I expected or ever wanted to happen to me.

All I wanted was to be normal. And if you get us the help we need and aren’t afraid of us, I guarantee you that we ALL have the potential to be normal. Thanks for reading this long winded blog post if you managed to get through it 🙂 I appreciate each and every person that reads this! You can make a difference in our lives! And if you have this disorder, you can make a difference in your own life, just ask for help!

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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