May 20, 2005

Schizophrenia Awareness Week

Schizophrenia Awareness Week

Here is the press release from the National Schizophrenia Foundation:

Schizophrenia Awareness Week: May 22-28, 2005; Schizophrenia: It's Not What You Think!

LANSING, Mich., May 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Schizophrenia is NOT hopeless. It's NOT the result of bad parenting or a weak personality. Schizophrenia is NOT the same as split personality disorder. In an effort to set the record straight and reduce these kinds of misconceptions in the general public, the National Schizophrenia Foundation has declared May 22-28 to be Schizophrenia Awareness Week. This year's theme is appropriately "Schizophrenia: It's Not What You Think!"

   Affecting more than 2.5 million Americans, schizophrenia is a biologically based brain disease that seriously impairs a person's ability to think clearly and relate to others. Someone with schizophrenia has difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imaginary, and is often unresponsive and withdrawn. Although there is no known cause or cure, a majority of people with schizophrenia can lead a more "normal" life with the appropriate medication, therapy and support.

   "Schizophrenia is often far from what people think it is," says Eric Hufnagel, President & CEO, National Schizophrenia Foundation. "Unfortunately, the individuals with schizophrenia are the ones who suffer -- not only from this devastating disease, but just as much from the stigma that results from public misconception."

   This event honors the work of Dr. Philippe Pinel, a major figure in the early efforts to provide humane care and treatment for the mentally ill. Appointed chief physician at the men's "insane" asylum in Paris in the late 18th Century, Dr. Pinel was horrified to see the patients restrained to walls by chains. Although warned against it, Dr. Pinel took a bold and unprecedented move to remove the chains from the patients.

   The NSF is a not-for-profit organization that educates the public about schizophrenia, and administers the Schizophrenics Anonymous (SA) self-help network. SA is a network of over 150 self-help groups run for/by persons with schizophrenia and related disorders. The first SA support group was founded in Detroit in 1985 by Joanne Verbanic, who created a six-step program modeled after the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

   Persons interested in learning more about schizophrenia or SA may contact the National Schizophrenia Foundation at (800) 482-9534 or go to

Independent from the press release - here are some actions you can take this week to help people with schizophrenia:


In the book, The Broken Brain, Dr. Nancy Andreasen writes, "The brain is the source of everything that we are. It is the source of our ability to speak, to write, to think, to create, to love, to laugh, to despair, and to hate." She goes on to make a clear and consistent link to the fact that illnesses like clinical depression, schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder are neuro-biological disorders. Simply put, they are brain-based disorders. They are not a result of weakness of will or lack of morality. These are real medical illnesses that can be effectively treated.

Bernie Schell, a nationally known advocate for persons with serious brain disorders, has encouraged the mental health system to use terms like: brain-based disorders or neuro-biological disorders for many years. She rightly believes that the stigma surrounding these illnesses would be reduced if people saw them for what they are: illnesses of the brain.

We know so much more about serious brain disorders than we did even 20 years ago. Clearly, these are no-fault illnesses that affect the brain, the most complex of human organs. The causes remain unknown and are probably multiple. There is no cure, but we do have effective treatment. In addition to having a brain disease, people with these illnesses often have significant functioning impairments for an indefinite period of time. The problems they experience are compounded by stigma, one of the cruelest and most prevalent forms of bigotry that exists.

Having said all that, what can we do individually? Here are some suggestions:

1. We must be unafraid in expressing our belief in the scientific findings which support the understanding of brain disorders and brain differences. Science and 21st Century response/treatment has shown disorders and differences of the brain are diagnosable and treatable. This belief must be reflected in all that we think, speak, write, and do.

2. We must share information about treatment and recovery. Those with serious brain disorders live with their illnesses just as those with diabetes and heart disease. Treatment works.

3. When we hear stigmatizing language, we must address it.

4. We need to tell our "stories" of friends, families and ourselves. Personally knowing someone who has a serious brain disorder can go a long way in impacting stigma.

5. We need to support funding so that these illnesses are look upon as other physical illnesses and not treated as a stepchild of the medical community.

6. Stigma is what keeps many people from seeking the help they need. The negativity and misunderstanding that often surrounds serious brain disorders can create fear and cause shame, which in turn causes unnecessary pain and confusion.



20th anniversary conference for Schiz Anonymous.
July 6-8 2005 Carers and sufferers invited:

Posted by: dugal at May 21, 2005 12:44 PM

I am wondering why people are so obsessed with calling this a brain disease and also questioning how this reduces stigma. Doesn't the suggestion there is something inherently wrong with you and that you must buy someone else's prescribed treatments and medications seem stigmatizing to anyone? I am just curious to hear more sides of this issue instead of limiting myself to propaganda.

Posted by: Neely Myers at May 25, 2005 05:30 PM

Are there any 'pen pal ' type sites with whom my 24 yr old schizophrenic daughter may communicate?. Any info. would be helpful.

Nicholas Clarke

Posted by: Nicholas Clarke at April 11, 2008 08:04 AM

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