A Taboo in the World of Mental Health: Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is one of the most stigmatized illnesses in the world. The situation is so bad that even in the circles of mental health advocates, it is considered a taboo to talk about schizophrenia. Why is it so ‘bad’ to talk about schizophrenia? Why are even mental health advocates afraid of talking about it? Let us take a look in.
Stigma of Schizophrenia
People who have schizophrenia have to face a lot of stigma. This comes from the general population which doesn’t know a lot about it but also from mental health ‘champions’. This is because schizophrenia is the archetype of mental illnesses in the general population. There are hallucinations, delusions, negative behavior and suicidal ideation commonly found in schizophrenics.
People who insist on not calling depressed people ‘crazy’ are sometimes found calling schizophrenics ‘loony tunes’. This makes it all hard to even accept your own self and increases the risk of suicide. In a country like India, where superstitions are rife, it becomes even harder for a person with schizophrenia to live.
In rural areas they may have to face forced beating or ‘exorcisms’ and in the urban, upper-middle class demographic, they face high level of isolation from social circles.
Living with Schizophrenia
Living with schizophrenia is very, very hard. The first obstacle comes at identifying what is a hallucination and what is not. Ignoring the terrifying hallucinations is a long way away when identifying them is a challenge.
It has been sometimes compared to having nightmares while being awake. We are terrified of a nightmare even if we know it is one and we know we are sleeping, how terrifying would it be if you saw the same with your eyes open?
People who are living with it need our support and empathy, not our apprehension and isolation. Most of the cases break at the age of early adulthood which means in our college time. It is very important that more people are sensitized to identifying the symptoms and seeking help and support.
As someone who claims to be a mental health advocate, I accept that I should be talking more about schizophrenia as well. People with it are at a higher risk of attempting suicide than other mental illnesses and it is time we de-stigmatize it in the mental health awareness community as well. We can only hope to change someone else’s perception when we are willing to change our own.
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