Today’s World Mental Health Day highlights the 26 million people around the world who are living with schizophrenia – and millions more who are impacted by it.1
It not only affects individuals who have the illness, but also family members, carers, healthcare professionals, employers, organizations and policy makers looking to improve the day-to-day lives of people with schizophrenia. It includes society – you and me.
Dr Patt Franciosi, World Mental Health Day Chair, writes in the World Federation for Mental Health’s report Living with Schizophrenia, “a challenge facing the mental health advocacy community is to create public pressure to change national mental health policies around the world, so that they take into consideration the scientific, clinical and social advances of recent decades. It is our aim to improve public understanding of schizophrenia and draw attention to ways in which better care can be provided.”
News that the UK’s deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has pledged to make more money available for mental health in the next Parliament if the Liberal Democrats are in government, is welcomed. Also welcome is the flurry of articles, reports, tweets and Facebook postings this week, raising public awareness of living with schizophrenia. It’s a step in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go.
“Society has moved a long way in attitudes towards all kinds of things over recent decades, but the way people tend to respond to schizophrenia hasn’t changed much,” says David Crepaz-Keay, head of empowerment and social inclusion at the Mental Health Foundation, who himself has been living with the diagnosis of schizophrenia for 35 years. “Being more aware of the people with schizophrenia, who are leading successful or even ordinary lives … would be very useful for increasing awareness, reducing isolation after diagnosis and helping to move us away from that stigma.”
This chimes with recommendations in the report Schizophrenia: Time to commit to Policy Change, which includes calls for:
Let’s hope the world’s spotlight on living with schizophrenia doesn’t go out at midnight tonight; with time, lives can be changed.
1. World Health Organization. The global burden of disease: 2004 update. Available from: http://www.who.int/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/2004_report_update/en/