What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental health disorder that is characterized by distortions in thinking, perceptions, emotions, sense of self and behavior. Common experiences include hallucinations and delusions.
These experiences may be difficult to describe to friends and family members, yet seem completely real to the affected person. This may make it difficult for others to understand that these are the effects of the illness.
Who is susceptible?
Schizophrenia affects an estimated 20 million people worldwide. The disorder is relatively infrequent, about 1 in 2000 people are affected. Schizophrenia also commonly starts earlier in men.
People with Schizophrenia are 2-3 times more likely to die early than the general population. The illness starts mainly in young people, ages 15 to 30, however it may start at other ages as well.
Why is someone affected by it?
It is widely thought that a combination of genetics, environmental factors such as stress or even psychological factors may contribute to Schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia can be inherited but in most cases, children of Schizophrenic patients do not develop the illness. Stress can exacerbate the illness or cause a relapse for recovering patients.
How is it treated?
Schizophrenia is effectively treated by a combination of medicines and psycho-social support. As a family member or friend you can help by,
- Understanding the illness better
- Encouraging the patient to access treatment
- Encouraging the patient to get back to social roles as much as possible
- Taking care of your personal health and mental well-being
- Feeling confident to deal with the stigma and discrimination that you and the patient might experience
However, most patients with chronic Schizophrenia lack access to treatment. About 90 percent of untreated Schizophrenic cases are from low and middle income countries. There is also clear evidence that out-dated mental hospital treatment is not effective and transfer of care from mental health institutions to the community needs to be prioritized.
Where can you head to find out more?
Articles on Schizophrenia by NGOs:
Opinion articles on Schizophrenia:
Report on status of mental health in India: