People with schizophrenia are often viewed in a negative light, and this can lead to discrimination. Discrimination may be direct, such as someone making a negative remark about your mental illness or treatment. Discrimination can also be subtle, such as someone avoiding you because they assume you could be unstable, violent, or dangerous. The stigma around schizophrenia can make it difficult for people to seek help, as they may worry about being judged or misunderstood.
Mental Health Stigma
The stigma around health is an issue that has plagued societies around the globe for centuries. Unfortunately, for far too long, mental illness has been demonized, pathologized, and treated as a moral failing.
The history of mental illness is rife with myths and misconceptions that have led to some genuinely inhumane practices masquerading as treatment. From Neolithic times when trephining — chipping a hole in someone’s skull to release the evil spirits — was considered a legitimate medical procedure to the shameful use of lobotomies and electroconvulsive therapy in the 20th century, many of the treatments for mental illness have been more damaging than the illness itself.
A recent review of stigma around mental illness found that although the general public may be more accepting of the medical or genetic nature of a mental health disorder, many people still negatively view those with mental illness. People often erroneously hold negative stereotypes of those with mental illness, believing them to be dangerous, violent, lazy, or not intelligent.
These views can lead to self-stigma, as people internalize these negative messages and believe these untruths about themselves. Negative stigma can have a number of harmful effects, including fewer opportunities in life. People with mental illness are less likely to get jobs, find housing, or have access to quality healthcare.
Several different types of stigmas have been associated with schizophrenia: interactional, structural, and self-stigma. Interactional stigma, which refers to the way that people with mental illness are treated in social interactions, can include being ignored, ridiculed, or treated with fear. Structural stigma refers to when society is organized in a way that disadvantages people with mental illness. For example, they may have difficulty accessing services or face discrimination in employment. Finally, there is self-stigma, which refers to the way that people with mental illness come to believe the negative messages about themselves. This can lead to a sense of shame and isolation, which may make it difficult to seek help.
The review found that all three types of stigmas can lead to social exclusion and barriers to care. People with mental illness are less likely to seek treatment if they believe that they will be stigmatized.
Schizophrenia and Social Stigma
The stigma around schizophrenia is primarily due to a lack of understanding of the illness. In addition, the general public often erroneously associates schizophrenia with violence or dangerous behavior. However, people with schizophrenia are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of violence. Unfortunately, the stigma around persists. Many people erroneously think that schizophrenia means having a split personality or that the disease makes one violent.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that 64% of people believe a split personality is a symptom of schizophrenia. This promotes a perception that people with schizophrenia are unpredictable, which causes some in society to fear those with schizophrenia. In reality, people with schizophrenia are no more likely to be violent than anyone else in the general population.
Fight Stigma With Language
The stigma around mental illness coupled with the stigma around substance use disorders (SUDs) can be especially alienating to those with a dual diagnosis. The way these issues are discussed can impact the likelihood that people with schizophrenia and SUDs will feel comfortable seeking the help that they need. Research indicates that negative attitudes toward those perceived to be living with a mental illness or SUD can contribute to poorer overall health outcomes for the people perceived to be living with a mental illness. Consequently, prejudice against people living with schizophrenia or a SUD has been identified as a critical focus for research and interventions.
One of the most important things we can do to reduce stigma is to be mindful of our language when talking about mental illness and addiction. For example, using terms like “crazy” or “junkie” to describe someone with a mental illness or addiction can reinforce negative stereotypes and make it less likely that people will seek help. These labels are associated with negative stereotypes that can make people feel ashamed or embarrassed.
It is essential to use language that does not label people with derogatory terms. Healthcare providers can play a role in this by using thoughtful language when discussing mental health. We need to use respectful, person-centered language that acknowledges the challenges faced by those with mental illness. We can help create a more supportive and inclusive society for all by doing so.
Seek Residential Treatment
The stigma around schizophrenia is one of the main reasons why people suffering from the disease don’t seek out treatment. In many cases, people with schizophrenia are incorrectly seen as dangerous, unpredictable, and violent. In some cases, the stigma around schizophrenia can be even more harmful than the illness itself. This leads to a lot of fear and misunderstanding, which can make it difficult for people with the disorder to get the help they need. The stigma also makes it hard for people with schizophrenia to find jobs and housing, and it can make them targets of discrimination. All of this makes it difficult for people with schizophrenia to recover. Individuals suffering from schizophrenia often require a schizophrenia treatment center.