Mental disorders are all  shrouded in mystery, misunderstanding and fear  one of the greater is schizophrenia. According to a 2008 survey by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 64 percent can’t recognize its symptoms or think the symptoms include a “split” or multiple personalities - which they don’t. SADAG has many queries from all provinces on their toll free help lines.

•    Men and women have equal rates of schizophrenia
•    Men may manifest symptoms of schizophrenia earlier than women
•    Usually 1-2 years pass after the initial symptoms of schizophrenia before diagnosis
•    Children and people over 45 rarely get schizophrenia
•    All races show equal incidence of schizophrenia

Aside from ignorance, images of the aggressive or sadistic schizophrenic are frequently listed in  the media. South Africa has shown huge stigma and quashed any shred of sympathy for individuals with this illness since the Mandela event.  Stigma has a lot of negative consequences. It’s been associated with reduced housing and employment opportunities, diminished quality of life, low self-esteem and more symptoms and stress

Even thought they are afflicted with a terrible disease, they also have to deal with the confusion, fear and disgust of others. Whether your loved one has schizophrenia or you’d like to learn more, gaining a better understanding of it helps demystify the disease and is a huge help to those who suffer from it. Despite many of the problems it depends on the severity and many people still have full time or part time work in South Africa. Patients are able to obtain help from both private psychiatrists or government psychiatric hospitals . We can help direct them to the right care.

Below are some myths  and facts regarding schizophrenia.

1. Do Individuals with schizophrenia all have the same symptoms.

Schizophrenia is “a huge, huge range of people and problems,” said Robert E. Drake, M.D., Ph.D, professor of psychiatry and family medicine at Dartmouth Medical School.   It’s simply hard to imagine what having schizophrenia would be like. Everyone experiences sadness, anxiety and anger, but schizophrenia seems so out of our realm of feeling and understanding.

Those of us who have not had this disease should ask ourselves, for example, how we would feel if our brain began playing tricks on us, if unseen voices shouted at us, if we lost the capacity to feel emotions, and if we lost the ability to reason logically.

2. Are People with schizophrenia dangerous, unpredictable or out of control.

“When their illness is treated with medication and psychosocial interventions, individuals with schizophrenia are no more violent than the general population,” said Dawn I. Velligan, Ph.D, professor of the Division of Schizophrenia and Related Disorders at the Department of Psychiatry, at San Antonio. Also, “People with schizophrenia more often tend to be victims rather than perpetrators of violence although untreated mental illness and substance abuse often increase the risk of aggressive behavior,”

3. Is Schizophrenia a character flaw.

Lazy, lacking in motivation, lethargic, easily confused…the list of “qualities” individuals with schizophrenia appear to have goes on and on. However, the idea that schizophrenia is a character defect “is no more realistic than suggesting that someone could prevent his epileptic seizures if he really wanted to or that someone could ‘decide’ not to have cancer if he ate the right foods. What often appears as character defects are symptoms of schizophrenia .

4. How quickly does Schizophrenia develop?

“It’s quite rare to have a big drop in functioning,” Dr. Hart said. Schizophrenia tends to develop slowly. Initial signs often show during adolescence. These signs typically include school, social and work decline, difficulties managing relationships and problems with organizing information, he said.. In schizophrenia’s beginning stages, an individual may not hear voices. Instead, he may hear whispers, which he can’t make out. This just before the onset of schizophrenia is the perfect time to intervene and seek treatment.

5. Is Schizophrenia treatable in a short range.

While schizophrenia is not curable, it is an a  treatable and manageable chronic illness, just like diabetes or heart disease. The key is to get the right treatment for your needs and as soon as your psychiatrist recommends it. SADAG has a wonderful brochure that they can send out free of charge.

6. Do Sufferers need to be hospitalized?.

Most individuals with schizophrenia “do well living in the community with outpatient treatment,” Velligan said. Again, the key is the right treatment and adhering to that treatment, especially taking the medication as prescribed.

7. Can People with schizophrenia  lead productive lives.

“Many individuals can lead happy and productive lives. In a 10-year study of 130 individuals with schizophrenia and substance abuse — which co-occurs in nearly 50 percent of patients — from the New Hampshire Dual Diagnosis Study, many gained control over both disorders, reducing their episodes of hospitalization and homelessness, living on their own and achieving a better quality of life. Specifically,  56.8 percent were in independent living situations; 41.4 percent were competitively employed; 48.9 percent had regular social contacts with non–substance abusers; and 58.3 percent expressed overall life satisfaction.”

8. Can Medications make sufferers feel lethargic or listless.

When we think of antipsychotic medication for schizophrenia, we automatically think of adjectives like lethargic, listless, uninterested and vacant. Many believe medication causes these sorts of symptoms. However, most often these symptoms are either from schizophrenia itself or because of overmedication. Zombie-like reactions are “relatively minor, compared with the number of patients who have never been given an adequate trial of available medications.

9. Is Antipsychotic medications are worse than the illness itself.

Medication is the mainstay of schizophrenia treatment. Antipsychotic medications effectively reduces hallucinations, delusions, confusing thoughts and bizarre behaviors. These agents can have severe side effects , but this is rare. “Antipsychotic drugs, as a group, are one of the safest groups of drugs in common use and are the greatest advance in the treatment of schizophrenia that has occurred to date.

10. Can Individuals with schizophrenia regain normal functioning.

Unlike dementia, which worsens over time or doesn’t improve, schizophrenia seems to be a problem that’s reversible. There’s no line that once it’s crossed signifies that there’s no hope for a person with schizophrenia, he added.

SADAG is open 365 days a year, from 8am to 8pm to help callers. 0800 21 22 23 or 0800 12 13 14. Or we can be SMS,d on  31393

The vast majority of people with schizophrenia respond to treatment and live normal lives in the community.

Statistics on people ten years after their initial psychotic break include: