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Let's talk about schizophrenia

For this year’s Schizophrenia Awareness Day we want to bust some common myths and explore what it is really like living with schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is a complicated mental health condition that is often related to psychosis. There's lots of misconceptions about it, the illness is still very much misunderstood and has a lot of stigma attached to it. However, 1 in every 100 people get this diagnosis at some point in their life. For this year’s Schizophrenia Awareness Day we want to bust some common myths and explore what it is really like living with schizophrenia.

Common myths about schizophrenia.

The only symptom is psychosis/hearing voices. Although this is a common symptom it’s by far not the only one – people with schizophrenia often also experience low mood; trouble with processing information or thoughts; find it hard to concentrate; sleeping issues; loss of interest/joy in things; wanting to isolate themselves from others and a lack of energy. Many of the same symptoms as depression but people are much more accepting of that!

People with schizophrenia are violent. In reality, people with a severe mental health issue are much more likely to be a victim of crime than the general population.

It means someone has ‘multiple personalities’ – this isn’t true. As above, there are many symptoms and everyone’s experience of the condition will be different.

People can never get well – This is really untrue, the majority of people can and do live well and fulfilling lives with schizophrenia. Although people may have times when it is more difficult than others, 4 out of 5 people with the diagnosis will be able to manage it most of the time and live a fulfilling life.

The realities of living with schizophrenia

It’s different for everyone – the stereotypical version you often see portrayed in the media or films is not realistic and people face a lot of stigma and judgement because of it.

For most people who have schizophrenia, they have periods when things might be difficult and periods when things are manageable – just like most people and most mental health issues!

Not every difficult day is because of psychosis/voices – our service users who have schizophrenia tell us it can be difficult for them to find people to talk to about the emotional and mood impacts of the illness because these are much less recognised. When they say they are struggling people often assume it’s with psychotic symptoms and focus on that, whereas the low mood, sleep and emotional impacts of the illness can be just as difficult to deal with and when not treated or managed successfully can lead to worsening psychotic symptoms rather than the other way round.

How you can help support friends and family with schizophrenia

Focus on feelings, not experiences. You might feel unsure what to say or do when someone sees or believes something you don't – but it's important to remember that their experiences feel real to them.

It can help if you focus on how they are feeling, rather than talking about what is real or true. Instead of denying their experience it can help to say something like "That sounds really frightening, is there somebody you could talk to about it?”

How we can support people with schizophrenia

We have a number of staff, volunteers and service users who have schizophrenia.

Within peer support, we offer opportunities for people to meet and talk to others who have had their own experiences, which can be invaluable when it comes to mental health issues like schizophrenia which are often misunderstood and can be difficult to people to talk about generally.

If you live in Southampton, our Lighthouse crisis service also offers non-judgemental support 365 days a year if things get too much.

Or you can give our support line a call for wellbeing advice on the phone and advice on where to access support.

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