Two of the original Top 50 themes searched on at HealthCentral's schizophrenia community site were the questions posed as to whether stigma has gotten better over the years and are people with schizophrenia violent. I wanted to tackle these twin evergreen topics again in light of the recent news.
The root of stigma lies in the dictionary.
The Oxford American College Dictionary defines crazy thus: "Mentally deranged, esp. as manifested in a wild or aggressive way."
Derange is "to cause someone to become insane."
Unfortunately, the dictionary tells us insane is "in a state of mind that prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction; seriously mentally ill."
Normal is living life with compassion towards others. Normal is the opposite of so much of what happens in our world. Normal is stopping to ask someone what he's doing there instead of automatically shooting him with a gun.
Normal is people with mental illnesses who are law-abiding citizens who hurt no one.
Recovery is normal. Choosing recovery opens doors for us that would otherwise be closed.
I'll tell you what's not normal:
These statistics from a Cornell Law School document:
"Mentally ill individuals are fifteen times more likely to be assaulted, twenty-three times more likely to be raped, and one hundred forty times more likely to experience property theft than the general population."
Worthington, Kathryn A. (2009) 19 Cornell J. L. & Pub. Pol'y 213
Most likely, individuals with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses are more likely to be the victims of crime because they exist on government checks and have a low income so might live in bad neighborhoods where they're easy prey for attackers.
We need a new definition of insane or it needs to be taken out of the dictionary as it exists now.
A recent study by the National Alliance on Mental Illness revealed a significant number of people still wouldn't want to work for or with or be in a romantic relationship with someone who had schizophrenia.
The belief that medication helps people hasn't translated into a willingness by others to associate with those of us with SZ. So for the most part, everyone keeps silent about his diagnosis. This doesn't help create real change in public attitudes.
People with schizophrenia who do great things toil in anonymity without getting credit for their struggle to win the war against the symptoms. People with this illness who have a much harder time of it and outwardly show signs of odd dress or speech or behavior face a double stigma.