Fear Of Schizophrenic Co-worker?


Asked by Faye

Fear Of Schizophrenic Co-worker?

I hired a woman who's first day of training was Friday; she had what I considered to be a "normal" first day on the job. On Saturday, after her lunch break, we we're chit chatting. During the remaining 5 hours she repeatedly told me that she hears voices that someone put in her head, she wants to kill herself, she has homocidal thoughts, was misdiagnosed, has been hospitalized for her misdiagnosis and wants to stop taking her medication.What she was saying and her agitation was horrifying. I empathized and stayed calm. Today is Sunday and I am still unnerved.I am afraid of her and I do not know how to overcome this fear. Should she become violent (it is a 10x15 ft office), how do I protect myself? What are the warning signs to look for?


Hello Faye,

First of all, only 3 percent of the people with schizophrenia are violent or some low number that is statically lower than the general population's incidence of violence. You are more likely to be attacked or killed by a stranger or by someone you know. Only, those random acts don't get the publicity; the media only showcases people with schizophrenia. That does not mean violence is the norm for people with schizophrenia; it just means those are the stories the newspapers choose to write about to sell newspapers. Remember: dog-and-pony shows don't sell newspapers. There's a slogan in the news field: "If it bleeds, it leads."

Please do not buy into the myth that people with schizophrenia are violent. I have schizophrenia and I have a Masters degree and have worked as a professional librarian for close to 10 years. Most people with schizophrenia would tell you similar stories if the stigma [like yours] wasn't so great that we refuse to disclose our medical condition to the public.

It sounds like she has a symptom called anosognosia, or the lack of awareness that she has an illness. People who believe their delusions who have anosognosia do not think anything is unusual about their beliefs so cannot be convinced otherwise and often refuse treatment such as the medication that will alleviate their symptoms like voices, delusions and paranoia.

If this woman has schizophrenia and is not taking her meds that is not a good sign in terms of her productivity at work yet that does not mean she will become violent.

Quite frankly everyone involved at the Connection gets irked when people who do not have any knowledge of schizophrenia assume a person with schizophrenia will become violent.

Apart from your concern about violence, I believe the real concern is whether she does have schizophrenia and if so, she needs to be taking her medication. Monitor her progress as an employee in terms of her work and proceed accordingly. Spending five hours talking about her delusions doesn't indicate she's getting any work done.



Answered by Christina Bruni