Thursday, 11 February 2016

Schizophrenia - or Emotional Distress?

I think this is the fourth blog I have written for the Huff Post this year.  I know I meant to write one a week and am already a little behind…  Anyway, when this one is published I will link to it here, and then hopefully you can follow the link and see the video it mentions.  It doesn't actually mean much or say anything new without the video but unfortunately I have no idea how to add photos or videos to this blog, although I really should learn that one of these days. 

In any case, I hope all of you out there are well and happy.  I am beginning to feel that Spring is in the air – so many things have started to bud out in my garden and although I know the current cold snap will halt them in their progress it still feels positive.  Exciting too, as I can't remember what on earth I planted - I must make a note of what actually grows in my garden this year. 
I do know I have some new raspberry canes - a friend gave them to me last Autumn.  I saw these sticks the other day and nearly pulled them out thinking they were dead plants of some kind but mercifully I remembered what they were just in time.  Reminds me of the time my mother-in-law planted beans for me and I pulled the whole lot up a couple of months later, thinking they were bindweed.  Easy mistake, apparently. 
This is starting to feel like a gardening column.  Back to the case in hand: Huff Post Blog 4.

‘Schizophrenia’ – or Emotional Distress?

Several months ago, I was asked if I would contribute to a video to be made by the mental health charity Mind, about schizophrenia.  I don’t like the term schizophrenia – I was once diagnosed with this condition and although the psychiatrists turned out to be completely wrong and it has been many years since I suffered from any symptoms of mental ill health, the term itself has affected my life in a negative way. 

‘Schizophrenia’ was never intended to be a derogatory term, but after more than one hundred years of misuse and misunderstanding it has become synonymous with madness and danger.  It needs to be modernised, in the same way that manic depression was relabelled as bipolar disorder, some years ago.

Young people are still being labelled schizophrenic, despite much evidence of the harm caused by the diagnosis.  The term has now been eradicated in many forward thinking countries and I live in hope that the UK will follow suit before too much longer.

In any case, I made it clear to Mind that I would be happy to speak about the condition on the video, but that I wanted to make clear my views about the harm done to people by use of the word schizophrenia.  Furthermore, I told them, I wanted to speak about the inhumane way that people who suffer breakdowns are forced to take psychiatric medication both in and out of hospital, sometimes for the rest of their lives, despite its debilitating side effects.  I also wanted to warn young people of the serious risks of cannabis use to their present and future mental health.  There was more.  The girl I spoke with assured me that my views were valid and that it would be good to have them aired.

In the event, though, none of my views about mental health treatment were included on the film, although apparently a podcast will be released in the next few months which will not be so heavily edited.  I am not complaining – Mind is a worthy organisation and they had to produce the film they wanted to show the world – it was not under my control.  And I am sure the film, which shows five of us who have been diagnosed with the condition, will prove useful to the world.  Even though, in my opinion, it could have been a lot more so.

Here’s a link to the film.  Enjoy!


  1. Louise, I just resf your Huffington Post article. Thanks for writing it. I was diagnosed with Schizo-Effective Disorder in 2014. I quit my job after being released from the hospital and haven't been out of yhe house in 6 months. I am do ashamed. I don't connect with friends. How do I begin to get my life back. I was a programmer, teacher, active in church, girl scouts, politics and I got a divorce. Stress leveled me. No access to counseling because of insurance. My faith keeps going but I don't know where to begin to heal. What would uou suggest? Please help.

  2. Hi Cindy. Sorry for the late reply, I don't check this blog as often as I should. First of all, you really have nothing to be ashamed of. I do understand why you feel that way, but it is not your fault that your emotions got out of control. I am sure you are a good person and that doesn't change because you have been emotionally distressed, mentally ill or however you want to phrase it. I know the American system is different to ours - we can get counselling on the National Health Service although we might have to wait a while. I am wondering whether you might be able to get access to some help through the church? I am sure people would not judge you as much as you think - often we are the harshest judges of ourselves. I would advise you to take things slowly, to build up your confidence and try to regain your sense of self. Confide in family and friends and don't be afraid to ask others for help in rebuilding your life. I hope that helps a little. All the best, Louise