Schizophrenia - Mental Health

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  1. Impact and understanding
    1. Schizophrenia impacts a person’s perceptions of the world around them — often through hallucinations and delusions — and is one of the most debilitating and misunderstood mental health conditions.
  2. Economic and social toll
    1. While fairly rare, Schizophrenia takes a huge economic and social toll, with 5% of those affected dying by suicide.
  3. Reduce stigma, emphasize treatment plan
    1. Highlight stories that reduce stigma and emphasize the importance of adhering to a comprehensive treatment plan.

Storytelling Tips

Depict Effective, Realistic Help-Seeking and Treatment
  • Consult with an expert if depicting treatment of a patient with schizophrenia who is acutely psychotic or if there is a desire to portray electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), restraints, or seclusion, as these things can be challenging to accurately depict. 
  • People with schizophrenia or their family members may be worried that they or their loved ones will be mistreated when seeking help due to the fear and misunderstanding around the condition. Showing accurate and compassionate treatment for people with the disorder can encourage people to get the help they need. 
Represent the Complex Causes of Mental Health Challenges
  • Show the role of genetics in schizophrenia, and highlight the importance of being proactive with treatment. 
  • Genetics play a larger role in schizophrenia than most other mental health conditions. Showing this can help people understand that this is a real medical condition and not the fault of the person experiencing it. 
  • It’s also helpful for people who may be at higher risk due to family history to understand the importance of being proactive since early treatment can be very beneficial. 
Consider the Impact of Language
  • Avoid incorrect usage of terms like “psycho” or “schizo” when referring to either a patient with schizophrenia or even just as a casual joke. For example, avoid statements like, “My mom was so psycho yesterday.”
  • Using these types of terms casually can trivialize the experience of people who experience true episodes of psychosis.
Move Past Stereotypes
  • Look for more humanizing and authentic ways to portray schizophrenia and avoid using it as a reason for violence or harmful behavior in your storyline.
  • People with schizophrenia are often stereotyped as being violent or “unhinged.” While psychotic episodes can be scary, individuals with schizophrenia are generally no more violent than people without the condition. 


Schizophrenia is one of the most serious mental health conditions and often one of the most misunderstood. It impacts a person’s thoughts, behaviors, feelings, and perceptions of the world around them.  

People with schizophrenia can experience auditory and visual hallucinations and can seem to family and friends like they have lost touch with reality, which can cause significant distress for both the person struggling and their loved ones. 

Abnormal thinking and delusions are also common with this condition. 

Schizophrenia, if left untreated, is a persistent and debilitating disorder that often gets worse over time, making it one of the top 15 causes of disability worldwide. However, effective treatments do exist and early intervention is critical.

Facts & Stats

Schizophrenia is usually diagnosed in the late teen/early adult years through to the early 30s.
The condition tends to emerge earlier in men (late adolescence to early to mid twenties) than females (early to mid twenties to early thirties).
Schizophrenia is relatively rare, impacting  0.25% and 0.64% of the U.S. population. 
Despite its relatively low prevalence, schizophrenia is associated with significant health, social, and economic issues. The estimated average potential life lost for individuals with schizophrenia in the United States is 28.5 years.
About 4.9% of people with schizophrenia die by suicide — a rate that is far higher than the general population — and the highest risk is in the early stages of the illness.

Symptoms & Warning Signs

Early Symptoms:

  • Depression
  •  Social withdrawal
  • Hostility or suspiciousness
  • Deterioration of personal hygiene
  • Inability to cry or express joy
  • Changes in sleep patterns (oversleeping or insomnia)
  • Lack of focus, unable to concentrate
  • Strange use of words or way of speaking


  • Auditory hallucinations (hearing things that aren’t there)
  • Visual hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t there)
  • Loss of sense of reality
  • Delusions or firmly held beliefs that are not supported by facts. Paranoia, irrational fears and the belief that others are “out to get them” are common.
  • Unusual thinking or disorganized speech (speech or thoughts that don’t make sense).

Treatment Options

Schizophrenia is a chronic and persistent illness that requires lifelong treatment. Current treatments focus on trying to manage symptoms in order to help people with schizophrenia manage their day-to-day functioning. 

  • Medication: The most important treatments for individuals with schizophrenia are antipsychotic medications that help reduce the intensity and frequency of their symptoms (often referred to as “psychotic symptoms”). Some antipsychotic medications can be given as injections once to twice a month instead of pills that the individual would have to take every day. Unfortunately, side effects of these medications can be significant and adherence to the treatment plan is often difficult. 
  • Psychotherapy: A talk therapy routine can help in monitoring medication efficiency, helping a person better cope with their thoughts and feelings, and providing guidance in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. 

Self-care: This option is especially important for people with schizophrenia as maintaining a routine, healthy sleeping patterns, avoiding stressors, and not using substances are critical to managing symptoms.

Need more guidance on depicting schizophrenia? Browse the expert directory >

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