Language affects severely abused, victimized, misunderstood, ostracized and untreated people. Some of which are affected by a neurological brain illness such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective or bipolar brain illnesses.
Webster’s Dictionary defines the word schizophrenia combining the Greek skhizein “split” and phren “mind” translating to “split personality” or “multiple personalities”. The fact is schizophrenia is a neuro-circuitry brain illness that requires medical treatment, as does kidney or gastrointestinal disease.
“Behavioral” health certainly doesn’t describe psychosis. The neuro-circuitry of the brain is impaired causing symptoms of psychosis – delusions, hallucinations and other symptoms. The altered state of reality triggers behaviors in response to the symptoms. “Training” to change behavior, does not treat an illness, nor relieve the pain of psychosis any more than telling a person to stop squinting in response to the pain of a migraine. Behavior is not the illness.
The public and decision makers require education to change their life-altering attitudes and behaviors pertaining to whether a person is incarcerated, sent to live on the streets, or given the opportunity to get appropriate mental treatment. Currently, people do not understand this because there are more people incarcerated or wandering ill, homeless, and suffering than those who are appropriately treated and living a meaningful productive life.
Now is the time for everyone to recognize that people with schizophrenia spectrum brain illnesses are often people with great intellect, creativity and bright futures whose lives have been interrupted or curtailed due to a brain illness that they likely inherited. These are NOT characterological or personality disorders. Actually, these are childhood diseases, often unrecognized until noticeable responses to delusions and hallucinations become obvious in adolescence or early adulthood. Their neurological illnesses prevent them from perceiving that they are ill, thus they refuse treatment.
We need to stop criminalizing people with neurological brain diseases and instead work together the use of derogatory language when referring to them. We can do this by insisting the justice system provide opportunities for treatment not punishment, criminalization, or homelessness.
You can make a difference! Share the knowledge that psychosis is a brain illness not an elective way to experience life. Join Schizophrenia And Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA) to reclassify schizophrenia as a neurological brain disease so people will receive comprehensive assessments and treatment for this painful illness.
Linda Stalters, CEO, SARDAAm ORG., [email protected]