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Myth / Most people with schizophrenia can’t work.

Fact / People with schizophrenia can work—even if they have symptoms.
Several studies have shown that people with major mental illnesses fare better if they work. The ability to hold a job is not necessarily related to the severity of the person’s illness. British and American studies have shown that people with schizophrenia are more likely to stay out of hospital if they are employed. While many people with schizophrenia are able to work successfully in competitive fulltime employment, for others part-time or volunteer work is best.
Work is a vital part of rehabilitation. It increases self esteem, reconnects the ill individual to the community, and provides a meaningful way to fill time.

Myth / Jail is an appropriate place for people with schizophrenia.

Fact / Jails and prisons are frequently used to warehouse the mentally ill and get them off the streets. In Ontario, Canada, 15-20% of inmates have a psychiatric illness and 5-7% are considered to be seriously mentally ill. The mentally ill most often end up in prison because of vagrancy offenses, substance abuse, or minor property crimes. They frequently fail to show up for court appearances, leading to further charges and jailtime.
     Jails and prisons typically have very inadequate psychiatric services. Mentally ill prisoners receive little or no treatment. Moreover, they are subjected to a "double punishment." If they are housed with the general prison population, their abnormal behavior leads to beatings and abuse by other prisoners. If they are segregated for their protection, they lose all social contact and the isolation often worsens their symptoms.

Coming Face to Face With Schizophrenia at School, Work and in Relationships / Today, many people diagnosed with schizophrenia are in school, at work, and are parents and spouses. The winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize for Mathematics, John Nash, has lived with schizophrenia for thirty years. By providing a supportive environment and proper medication, treatment and encouragement, we can enable people who experience schizophrenia to be productive members of our community.
     However, negative portrayals of people who experience schizophrenia in television, movies and other media outlets, continue to perpetuate the stigma and further activates discrimination.
     As one woman said, "When you go into the hospital for a broken leg, people send flowers or they visit you. If you go to the hospital for a mental illness, people don’t send flowers. They don’t visit."

Open the Doors / Many patients report that consistent support from parents, friends, medical professionals or teachers was a major factor in their rehabilitation.
     Here are a few quotes from people who have experienced discrimination:

"One night the police pulled me over for expired plates on my car. It was dark. The lights were flashing. I was terrified and shaking. When the policeman approached my car, I was so scared I couldn’t speak. He accused me of being uncooperative. I managed to say that I had schizophrenia. ‘What does that have to do with anything?’ he said."
Elizabeth Anderson
Married for five years
Diagnosed with schizophrenia three years ago

"I was pregnant when I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. My friends’ parents asked: ‘When is the abortion going to take place?’"
Michele Miserelli
Diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1988
Public speaker for the Schizophrenia Society of Canada

Today there are voices of hope.

"I had just received my college degree in English when I was diagnosed with schizophrenia eighteen years ago. For a long time, I couldn’t concentrate enough to read. But with my new medication, I can read again. I play the viola and love the Bach cello suites."
Elizabeth MacDonell
Bachelor's degree in English literature
Plays viola with a local orchestra
Has lived with schizophrenia for 18 years

What can you do?

  1. Be aware of the words you use. "Crazy", "loony", "schizo" are hurtful words.
  2. Help make others aware of how our words and attitudes hurt. Don’t laugh along with cruel jokes. Let other know ignorance hurts.
  3. Stand by those who may be suffering early symptoms of mental illness.
  4. Get involved. Call your local Schizophrenia Support group. If there is not one available in your community or if you would like more information on the Worldwide Program to Fight Stigma and Discrimination, contact the World Psychiatric Association—by phone, fax or e-mail—to find out about national programs in your country.

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