By Shashi Jyothi Monteiro
Myths and misconceptions about mental illness contribute to the stigma, which leads many people to be ashamed and prevents them from seeking help. Stigma is something about a person that causes her or him to have a deeply compromised social standing, a mark of shame or discredit. Generally, people who have mental disorders are considered lazy, unintelligent, worthless, stupid, unsafe to be with, violent, always in need of supervision, possessed by demons, recipients of divine punishment, unpredictable, unreliable, irresponsible, without conscious, incompetent to marry and raise children, unable to work, affects rich people, increasingly unwell throughout life, and in need of hospitalization. Unfortunately, such misconceptions remain predominant in people who are supposed to deliver the health care services. It is found that medical professionals share high proportion of misconceptions and have discriminatory attitude toward psychiatry and patients of mental disorders. This should not happen because effective treatment exists for almost all mental illnesses. Worse, the stigma experienced by people with a mental illness can be more destructive than the illness itself. Widespread social stigma, myths, and adverse belief systems of mental illness cannot be removed by just increasing the public awareness, but rather requires a comprehensive community-based program based on psychosocial understanding of the disease.
The public perception of the mentally ill as dangerous leads to stigmatization of those with these illnesses and contributes to increasing their disability and deprives them of participation in the life of the community.
A number of research studies found that the majority of the public still have difficulty accepting mentally ill people as employees, tenants, spouses or neighbors. The misconception that most mentally ill people are dangerous is clearly one of the sources of these attitudes. Other factors which influence these common stereotypes include the belief that serious disorders like schizophrenia are untreatable and that mentally illness make an individual less intelligent and less capable of reasoning like an adult.
One of the research studies found that knowledge of the treatability of schizophrenia positively changed participants’ attitudes toward the mentally ill and even reduced the perception of the dangerousness. Unfortunately, insurance companies are still allowed to discriminate against the mentally ill by placing strict limits and exclusions on what treatments they pay for, reinforcing the notion that mental illnesses are not the same as other medical disorders, and are less treatable. Discrimination against those with mental illness in health insurance also contributes to gaps between public perceptions and reality.
Stigma places obstructions to social success for patients. In addition, the attitudes of the public toward them is often internalized and results in lowered self-esteem, hopelessness and despair for sufferers. Families also suffer from stigma. A civilized society must reject old stereotypes and biases and dismantle the discrimination and stigmatization. The media also have a responsibility to report accurately and fairly, correcting misconceptions when necessary.
Some of the common Myths related to schizophrenia
Myth: People with schizophrenia have multiple personalities.
This is one of the biggest misunderstandings about schizophrenia. One poll found that 64% of Americans believe schizophrenia involves a split personality — which means someone acts like they are two separate people.
A person with schizophrenia doesn’t have two different personalities. Instead, he or she has false ideas or has lost touch with reality. Schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder are two different and unrelated conditions.
Myth: People with schizophrenia are dangerous, violent, and unpredictable and out of control.
When their illness is treated with medication and psychosocial interventions, individuals with schizophrenia are no more violent than the general population.
In movies and TV shows, can see the crazed killer. Often it’s the character with schizophrenia. That’s not the case in real life.Even though people with schizophrenia can act unpredictably at times, most aren’t violent, especially if they’re getting treated.When people with schizophrenia do commit violent acts, they usually have another condition, like childhood conduct problems or substance abuse.
Myth: Schizophrenia is caused by bad parenting.
Myth: If parent has schizophrenia, children’s will get it too and It is purely genetic.
Studies have shown that in pairs of identical twins (who share an identical genome) the prevalence of developing the illness is 48 percent,” Genes do play a role in schizophrenia. But just because one of the parents has the condition doesn’t mean children’s are destined to get it.If one parent has schizophrenia, the risk of the condition is about 10%. Having more than one family member with schizophrenia raises the risk further.
Along with genetics, research has shown that stress and family environment can play a big role in increasing a person’s susceptibility to psychosis. While we can’t change genetic vulnerability, we can reduce the amount of stress in someone’s life, build coping skills to improve the way we respond to stress, and create a protective low-key, calm family environment without a lot of conflict and tension in hopes of reducing the risk of illness progression.
Myth: People with schizophrenia are stupid.
There have been studies that found people with schizophrenia have more trouble on tests of mental function, including attention, learning, and memory. Yet that doesn’t mean they’re not intelligent.
Many creative and smart people throughout history have had schizophrenia, such as Russian ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky and Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash. Scientists have even discovered a gene linking mental disorders like schizophrenia to creativity and intellect.
Myth: If person has schizophrenia, they belong in a mental hospital.
There was a time when people with mental illness were thrown in mental asylums or even in prison. But now that we understand more about this disease, fewer people need to be placed in long-term mental health facilities. Most people with schizophrenia live with family or in supportive housing in the community.
Myth: If person have schizophrenia can’t hold a job.
Schizophrenia can make it harder for you to land a job and go to work every day. But with the right treatment, many people can find a position that suits their skills and abilities.
Myth: Schizophrenia makes people lazy.
People with schizophrenia may have a harder time taking care of their own daily needs, such as getting dressed and bathing. This does not mean they’re “lazy.” They just need a little extra help with their daily routine.
Myth: Schizophrenia is untreatable.
While schizophrenia is not curable, it is an eminently treatable and manageable chronic illness, just like diabetes or heart disease
Myth: People with schizophrenia can’t lead productive lives.
Many individuals can lead happy and productive lives. Schizophrenia is an illness like the diabetes and hypertension that needs to be maintained and monitored. With the right maintaining treatment, people with schizophrenia can lead normal, happy and productive lives.
Myth: Medications make sufferers zombies.
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.
Myth: Antipsychotic medications are worse than the illness itself.
Medication is the mainstay of schizophrenia treatment. Antipsychotic medications effectively reduce hallucinations, delusions, confusing thoughts and bizarre behaviours. These agents can have severe side effects and can be fatal, 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
Myth: Individuals with schizophrenia can never 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.
Myth: Person can never recover from schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia can be hard to treat, but it’s not impossible. With the right medicine and therapy, about 25% of people with schizophrenia will have a full recovery.
Another 50% will see some improvement in their symptoms. Many people with schizophrenia can live full, productive lives.
As we see from the list above, there are obviously quite a few misconceptions about schizophrenia. There are some main causes that keep these myths alive, such as the media’s repetition of them, and the lack of education surrounding this illness to those who have not personally experienced it in themselves or their family. Big myths are hard to destroy, but with time, we can all do it together. Arm ourselves with knowledge so we can refute any of these myths as we encounter them in our daily life!
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