Sunday, February 08, 2009

Schizophrenia Discrimination From Friends and Family

Having a mental health disease can be a huge challenge, especially is the disease is schizophrenia. That's because though most people think that their closest friends and family members will be more understanding, compassionate, and less discriminatory, that may not be the case. In fact, according to a recent global study by King’s College in London, the exact opposite is true.

The study surveyed over 700 people in 27 different countries by asking them questions, face-to-face, about their experiences within their home lives, personal lives, work lives, and even specific questions about taking out bank loans, buying insurance, and dealing with the police.

What they found was surprising. While only 29 percent reported having trouble finding a job due to discrimination, and only 17 percent reported discrimination by the police, a whopping 47 percent had trouble making new friends and keeping their current friends because of discrimination.

Nearly half of those surveyed said they experienced negative treatment from friends and family members; this number is much higher than any other area of their lives.

You might think that there would be some degree of variance in this phenomenon, depending on where a person lives and in what culture. However, the researchers reported a very solid consistency within all countries. There were 25 or so people surveyed from each country, including the United States, Malaysia, India, and countries in Eastern and Western Europe.

In addition to finding out that family and friends were the most discriminatory, the researchers also found that those with schizophrenia had very high expectations of being discriminated against; nearly 60 percent expected to face discrimination when entering a new intimate relationship or seeking a new job, but only 30 percent actually experienced it.

Researchers feel the expectation of discrimination due to mental health issues such as schizophrenia is due to the lack of public education about mental illness. Lack of education can lead to irrational fears and judgments about mental health issues, causing many with mental health illness to retreat, not look for jobs, and not try to enter into new intimate relationships.

The organization ReThink, a mental health charity, is introducing a new campaign to help educate the public about mental health issues. Hopefully it will help discrimination percentages and ease the fears of those facing tough challenges such as schizophrenia.

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