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Consequences of stigma / One of the chief obstacles to the successful treatment and management of schizophrenia is the stigma often associated with the disorder. This stigma can lead to severe discrimination that needlessly exacerbates the problems of individuals with schizophrenia. Such discrimination limits the amount of resources for the treatment of schizophrenia, availability of housing, employment opportunities, and social interaction; problems that in turn further increase the stigma associated with the illness. The stigma associated with schizophrenia leads to frequent misrepresentations in the media which help to perpetuate negative stereotypes. The stigma associated with having schizophrenia can also have a negative impact on the course and outcome of the illness itself. Finally, stigma because of schizophrenia affects not only those with the illness but also their families, caregivers, and healthcare providers.

Misconceptions / The general public and even health professionals tend to hold a stereotyped image of those with schizophrenia. This image usually involves some or all of the following misconceptions:

  • Nobody recovers from schizophrenia.
  • Schizophrenia is an untreatable disease.
  • People with schizophrenia are usually violent and dangerous.
  • People with schizophrenia are likely to infect others with their madness.
  • People with schizophrenia are lazy and unreliable.
  • Schizophrenia is the result of a deliberate weakness of will and character ("the person could snap out of it if he would").
  • Everything people with schizophrenia say is nonsense.
  • People with schizophrenia cannot reliably report the effects of treatment or other things that happen to them.
  • People with schizophrenia are completely unable to make rational decisions about their own lives (e.g., where to live).
  • People with schizophrenia are unpredictable.
  • People with schizophrenia cannot work.
  • People with schizophrenia get progressively sicker all their lives.
  • Schizophrenia is the parents' fault.

Reducing stigma and discrimination / In order to reduce the stigma and discrimination because of schizophrenia, it is necessary 1) to change people's attitudes through education and outreach programs and 2) to change public policy and laws to reduce discrimination and increase legal protection for those with mental illness.
     Some specific strategies that can help reduce stigma and improve the quality of life for individuals with schizophrenia are listed below:

  • Increase use of treatment strategies that control symptoms while avoiding side effects;
  • Initiate community educational activities aimed at changing attitudes;
  • Include anti-stigma education in the training of teachers and health care providers;
  • Improve psychoeducation of patients and families about ways of living with the disease;
  • Involve patients and families in identifying discriminatory practices;
  • Emphasise developing medications that improve quality of life and minimise stigmatising side effects.

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