How schizophrenia affects 21 million people worldwide

World Schizophrenia Day: What you need to know about the illness

Mental health graphic.
Today is World Schizophrenia Day. Image by Tumisu from Pixabay.

Today marks World Schizophrenia Day, a day aiming to raise public awareness and reduce the stigma associated with the condition. 

Research has shown that early discovery of the disorder often leads to better long-term outcomes, and with a 2020 study estimating that 21 million people suffer with it worldwide, there’s no overstating how important raising awareness is. 

Here are some of the key things you need to know about what life’s like for people with Schizophrenia. 

How does schizophrenia affect people? 

According to the National Institutes for Health: “Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality, which can be distressing for them and for their family and friends.” 

Symptoms of the illness include disillusions, hallucinations, disorganised speech and catatonic behaviour, alongside mood swings, ranging from depression to mania. 

People with schizophrenia often suffer from isolation, and stigmas around the disorder have resulted in a number of misconceptions that still exist in popular belief. 

What are the causes? 

Schizophrenia is believed to come from a combination of factors, with one of the most significant of these being genetics. 

The condition tends to run in families, and those with a parent, sibling or close relative suffering from it may be more likely to get diagnosed themselves. 

Researchers don’t believe that one gene causes schizophrenia, however, and rather that a combination can be responsible. Twin studies have shown the importance of genes in schizophrenia, but they aren’t the only cause. 

Structural and chemical changes in the brain can also have an effect on people with the disorder, while dopamine and glutamate can trigger schizophrenia within people. 

How can it be treated? 

The most commonly used treatment of schizophrenia involves a combination of drug therapies and cognitive behavioural therapy. 

Alternative therapies such as creative and arts therapies have been proven to have an impact on patients, however, they are a potential route forward for people with the condition. 

How can you help? 

According to Mind, asking those you know with schizophrenia how you can help is a positive step. 

Friends and family members are also encouraged to focus on feelings rather than experiences, and notice when things are going well. 

Planning ahead for difficult times is also advised alongside looking after yourself, while finding out more about schizophrenia can also help. 

If you’d like to donate to organisations helping those with mental illnesses, you can donate to Mind here, the National Institute of Mental Health here, or the Schizophrenia and Psychosis Action Alliance here.