Most people believe that mental disorders are rare and “happen to someone else." But the reality is that mental disorders are quite prevalent, although they are not noticed due to social stigma. On reviewing the literature, chronic diseases like cardiovascular diseases, mental health disorders, diabetes, AIDS, cancer etc and injuries are the leading causes of death and disability in India, and it is predicted that these will continue to increase and contribute to the burden of disease during the next 25 years. But when we talk about mental illnesses, most of people do not accept them and if somebody gets diagnosed with Mental illness, society doesn’t accept them.24th May is celebrated as “Schizophrenia Awareness day”. According to the WHO Schizophrenia, Depression, Epilepsy, Dementia, Alcohol dependence and other mental, neurological and substance-use disorders constitute 13 per cent of the global burden of disease, surpassing both cardiovascular disease and cancer. Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder affecting more than 21 million people across the globe. Worldwide, Schizophrenia is associated with considerable disability and affects the educational and occupational performance of a person. Schizophrenia patients are more likely to die than the general population. This is often due to physical illnesses, such as cardiovascular, metabolic and infectious diseases. Stigma, discrimination and violation of human rights of people with Schizophrenia is very common, even in today’s “modern era.”For example, in 2015, a female patient with schizophrenia was admitted in the psychiatric ward of a hospital. She presented with chief complaints of disturbed sleep, suspiciousness, irritability,aggressive, abusive, and assaultive behaviour. She showed slow improvement over a period of 20 days of indoor management. Subsequently, the Psychiatric Nurses observed that she was missing her 3 year old child and hence crying the whole day. She, on multiple occasions had requested her relatives to bring her child to the hospital, but they never complied with her wishes. On being asked about the same, they said that “ ती वेडी आहे म्हणून ती तिच्या मुलास हानी पोहोचवू शकते”. This was reported by the Psychiatry Nurses to the patient’s treating psychiatrist. Later the patient and her family members were counseled and her child was brought to the ward daily. A significant improvement in her condition was then seen. This exemplifies the social stigma associated with mental illness, in society.Now the question arises as to who is responsible for this stigma? We all are responsible and we all need to find a solution. This is the time to say “NO” to faith-healers and go to psychiatrists for treatment of our mental illnesses. This is the time for early identification of schizophrenia, either in ourselves, our families or our neighbours.Schizophrenia is characterized by distortions in thinking, perception, emotions, language, sense of self and behaviour. Common experiences include hearing voices and delusions. There are several factors that contribute to the risk of developing schizophrenia like genetic, biologic, environmental and psychological. To simplify, chemical substances called Neurotransmitters play a major role in schizophrenia and are regulated by medications and Psychotherapy.The stigma attached to Schizophrenia does not allow people to visit a mental health professional for an evaluation and hence they keep suffering or seek solace in drugs and alcohol, which makes matters worse. It lowers their self-esteem, contributes to disrupted family relationships, and adversely affects the ability to socialize, obtain housing, and become employed. A major cause of this stigma is the perception that some individuals with Schizophrenia are dangerous. Given this fact, it seems self-evident that stigma will not be decreased until we decrease violence committed by mentally ill persons, and this can only be done by ensuring that they receive treatment. We should deliver the message in our community that Schizophrenia is an illness just as any other physical illness. When someone with a physical illness acts differently or "strange" we don't blame them for their moral failings. So encourage equality in how people perceive physical illness and Schizophrenia. Professionals and families together need to talk to society, law enforcement agencies, hospitals and legal experts to stop the stigmatization of those who live with schizophrenia and share their experiences and knowledge on interacting with the mentally ill. Talk to your family and friends about Schizophrenia. Treat those individuals who have Schizophrenia with the same love and affection as you would treat anyone else.Early identification and treatment of Schizophrenia is the key to remove stigma in society. Every individual should understand that Schizophrenia is different from Medical illnesses since individuals with Schizophrenia lose his/her Cognitive capacity, abstract, judgment, intelligence and concentration. Lack of access to mental health services is an important issue. Furthermore people with schizophrenia are less likely to seek medical aid than the general population, again largely due to the stigma attached. Schizophrenia is treatable with medicines and psychosocial support .In today’s era psychiatric hospitals are well equipped with effective manpower like Psychiatrists, Psychiatric Nurses, Psychologists, Psychiatric Social Workers and Counselors as a multidisciplinary team to help those having mental disorders. I want to conclude by saying that lets eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness from society as this would ensure that every individual with Schizophrenia can seek help from a mental health professional and get qualitative psychiatric care.Mr Suresh Kumar Sharma(RNRM, ACCN, MSN PSYCHIATRY)Lecturer, Psychiatric NursingMaharashtra Institute of Mental Health, Pune.
 

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