Schizophrenia: Media Vs. Reality

January 12, 2017

In many news reports, mental health gets a bad critique. Go to any story of a gunman on the rampage and reports will invariably link the attack to mental health. Going one step further, media reports will often label the person ‘schizophrenic.’ This has led to schizophrenia being inextricably linked to violence in the mind of the public. Is this right or wrong?

A study of more than 40 films released between 1990 and 2010 found that over 80% of main characters with a diagnosis of schizophrenia displayed violent behaviour and nearly a third engaged in homicidal behaviour. There are currently approximately 220,000 people in the UK living with schizophrenia, if nearly a third did truly engage in homicidal behaviour that would make for a shocking statistic.

In 2014 film The Voices Ryan Reynolds stars as a schizophrenic man who hears voices, and suffers delusions and hallucinations in the form of his pets speaking to him. He goes on to murder two women in what was deemed a ‘black comedy’ but which was widely criticized by mental health campaigners.

Download the UK Family’s Pocket Guide to Common Mental Illnesses and Disorders

So what really is schizophrenia and how do we separate the myth from reality?

Doctors often describe schizophrenia as a type of psychosis. This means the person may not always be able to distinguish their own thoughts and ideas from reality. The common symptoms are:

  • Hallucinations:  People developing schizophrenia might hear, see, smell or feel things no one else does or hear voices in their head.
  • Delusions: These are beliefs that seem strange to most people and are easy to prove wrong. The person affected might think someone is trying to control their brain through TVs or that the FBI is out to get them or that they have superpowers.
  • Confused thoughts and speech:  People with schizophrenia can find it difficult to organise their thoughts they might find it hard to follow a person talking and when they talk, their words can come out jumbled and not make sense.
  • Trouble concentrating:  The person developing schizophrenia might have trouble concentrating for example when reading or watching TV, they might find it hard to follow.

Some people think schizophrenia causes a “split personality” or violent behaviour. This is not true. The cause of any violent behaviour is usually drug or alcohol misuse.

Many people suffering from schizophrenia are peaceful people just trying to recover like anyone else. The negative media portrayal of people living with schizophrenia is damaging to the many thousands who are trying to lead good lives in our communities.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, see your GP as soon as possible. The earlier schizophrenia is treated, the better. Schizophrenia is usually diagnosed after an assessment by a mental health care professional, such as a psychiatrist.

If you find you are diagnosed with schizophrenia, Bridge can help. We can support you on your journey to recovery. Contact us today to find a support worker who can help you.

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