Knowledge Advances but Attitudes Stand Still

Jerry Kennard Health Pro

    American society is no more tolerant of schizophrenia than it was a decade ago. A study by Professor of Sociology Jason Schnittker, points to a situation where genetic arguments as the basis for schizophrenia have gained popularity, but traditional fears and attitudes about schizophrenia remain static.


    The study is a follow-on from one conducted in 1996. Results from the General Social Survey Mental Health Module are published in the Journal of Social Science and Medicine.


    A number of factors are thought to influence public attitudes towards mental illness; advances in science and medicine, media portrayals and the perceived effectiveness of treatment are just three. According to Schnittker people make very different associations according to the type of mental illness they consider. "In the case of schizophrenia, genetic arguments are associated with fears regarding violence." Schnittker contrasts this with depression and states, "genetic arguments for depression has the effect of making the condition appear more real and less blameworthy: it's in their genes, they're not weak, so I should accept them for who they are."

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    But American society isn't alone in its apparent lack of tolerance and understanding. Marginalization was also the theme of Indian society, reported to the 58th Annual Meeting of the Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA). Dr. Amresh Srivastava, MD, of the Department of Psychiatry, University of Western Ontario, presented findings that dispute the notion of mental illness being tolerated more in developing countries. Srivastava undertook his research in India whilst working at the Silver Mind Hospital in Mumbai.


    Srivastava and his colleagues looked at people with schizophrenia who were clinically classified as ‘recovered'. But, by using a multidimensional outcome criteria, it was found that routine measures of clinical recovery are not reflected in real-life situations. For example, of the recovered people in the study, 66 percent were not economically independent, 69 percent could not pursue their educational goals and 63 percent experienced rehospitalisation. When multidimensional measures are used, "the long term outcome of schizophrenia in a metropolitan city of India does not appear very impressive, in terms of global recovery and social improvement, "Srivastava said.


    Within this Sharepost I have used the term tolerance. Tolerance, as measured, includes such things as the willingness of people to associate with mentally ill people, to have them as a neighbour, to live in the same area, to work or socialize with them, to be friends or to accept marriage into the family.


    I'm sure everyone has their own story!



Published On: September 10, 2008