A lot of mystery surrounds this disorder that needs to be recognized for what it is; a mental condition characterized by a difficulty in organizing thoughts, focusing attention, and activating memory. It may trigger hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions keeping the patient somewhat distant from his or her surroundings. It develops in slow stages, where the early stages constitute the best time for intervention. Yet among many, conventional wisdom has made its name equivalent with other symptoms. A survey conducted in 2008 by the National Alliance on Mental Illness found that 85% of Americans can recognize schizophrenia as a disorder, but as much as 64% believe it stands for split personalities or cannot recognize the symptoms (7). Other misconceptions are that it is not curable, that all patients have the same symptoms and that patients can only occupy low-level jobs (Harding, and Zahniser 143).
Misconceptions such as these remain intact because not many people have been in continuous contact with patients for a considerable period of time. Moreover, stereotypes, especially when projected by the media, increase the stigmatization of patients, and make viewers less sympathetic to their suffering (Tartakovsky). Patients are often depicted in a negative image, and associated with attributes such as violence and dangerousness. This is paralleled with very few stories that picture people coping positively, or are on the road to recovery. A study that showed a documentary revealing the different stages and circumstances of the disorder to a number of people was able to positively alter their attitudes towards patients. Viewers expressed a greater intent to interact with patients, and were able to identify the disorder as less dangerous (Penn, Chamberlain and Mueser).
In reality, this disorder is characterized by a lot of heterogeneity, in that it affects people differently and to different degrees. It is not something that is chronic. Though it cannot be fully cured, it is treatable and manageable. Harding and Zahniser suggest that not only can patients perform at all professional levels, but that the work environment can have a therapeutic effect on patients (143). In fact, a study of 130 patients over the course of 10 years has found that 62.7% of patients are able to regain control over symptoms, 56.8% are able to live independently, and 41.4% can be competitively employed (464 Drake, and McHugo).
Psychiatric stigmatization still forms a big threat to patients. It not only affects peoples’ perceptions, but also damages the patients’ self-esteem, and can keep them from seeking treatment (Tartakovsky). Instead of contributing to an intensification of symptoms, the media and public sphere can start looking at how they can effectively bridge the gap between patients and their surroundings.