Today is National Schizophrenia Awareness Day, an important opportunity to break down myths and misconceptions about this mental health condition. It is a mental health diagnosis which will affect one in 100 people in the UK and while it’s therefore not as uncommon as people may think, it is still badly misunderstood. We spoke with Gemma Lamoratta, Regional Manager at Accomplish Supported Living, who told us more.
“The commonly-held myth is that schizophrenia is all about ‘hearing voices’ or having a ‘split personality’. However, the truth is there are many different ways in which a person can experience schizophrenia. It’s a complex illness where people have difficulties in their thought processes and this can lead to hallucinations, delusions, disordered thinking and unusual speech or behaviour, which is known as ‘psychotic symptoms’.
“It can affect many different aspects of a person’s life; people may hear things, see things or even smell or taste things that aren’t there as part of their symptoms.
“These symptoms mean that people with schizophrenia can find it difficult to interact with others and may withdraw from everyday activities and the outside world.
“People with schizophrenia may feel frightened, anxious and confused. They can become so disorganised that they can feel scared themselves and can also scare those around them.
“However, it is important to realise that although schizophrenia is distressing and frightening, it does not mean that people with the illness cannot have a good quality of life. With the right individualised support, they can live successfully and independently in the community, they can be in work and have careers, have social lives and families.
“Just like anybody else who has a long-term or recurring illness, people with schizophrenia can learn to manage their condition and get on with their lives.
“At Accomplish, across our supported living services, we support many people to live as independently as possible in their own homes, in the community. We support them to find ways to manage their symptoms, understand what may trigger them and what we can do to support a person when they are feeling most unwell.
“We help people gain, or relearn skills such as managing their finances and cooking. We support and encourage people to take control of their lives, to find educational or work opportunities that interest them and to also do the things they enjoy and pursue their interests.
“We want to break down those myths that just because a person has schizophrenia that it means they can’t live a full life. With the right support, it is not a barrier to what a person is able to achieve.”