Schizophrenia is a common illness.
- It is found all over the world in all races, cultures and social classes.
- Studies have shown that immigrant and lower socioeconomic populations have a greater than average chance of being diagnosed with schizophrenia than the general population. (Clinical Handbook of Schizophrenia, 2008; Harrison, Gunnell, Glazebrook, Page, & Kwiecinski, 2001).
- Worldwide and in Canada, it affects approximately 1% of the population (1 in a 100).
- Over 10,000 people in Saskatchewan are affected or will be affected in their lifetime, in a given generation.
Schizophrenia is a bio-chemical brain disorder.
- It is a serious mental illness with symptoms of “psychosis.”
- Psychosis is defined as the loss of contact with reality, and typically involves hallucinations (which can affect all 5 senses), and delusionary thinking.
- It is an illness that affects a person’s perceptions, thinking, feelings and behaviour.
Schizophrenia is one of youth’s greatest disablers.
- Most frequently the illness occurs in the 16 – 30 year old age group.
- Individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia in their teen years statistically have lower educational achievement levels, increased homelessness, and face greater difficulty finding gainful employment.
- Very often the individual has a perfectly normal childhood until the onset of the illness.
- It can also appear later in adulthood. However, onset after the age of 35 is less common, and after the age of 40 is rare.
Men and Women are affected with equal frequency.
- Generally men between the ages of 16 – 20 will experience schizophrenia for the first time.
- Generally women between the ages of 25 – 30 will experience schizophrenia for the first time.
- It is thought that women may be protected for these extra years by estrogen and progesterone produced in their bodies.
- Each person’s experience with the illness is very individual and symptoms may occur in children as young as 12 years old and younger, though very rare.
People with schizophrenia can become discourage, feel hopeless and sometimes become suicidal.
- Depression is the most prevalent cause of suicide for people suffering from schizophrenia.
- Four in ten individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia will attempt suicide and one in ten will die.
- 70% of the suicides occur before the age of 33, particularly with young males, who may be recently discharged from hospital. It is important that there be adequate supports and services in place in the community.
We are all affected.
- The estimated costs of schizophrenia in Canada due to hospitalization, disability payments and lost wages approach 2 billion dollars annually.
- The cost of losses associated with individual potential, family hardships, shattered personal hopes and dreams are impossible to measure.
Stigma and Schizophrenia
- Due to a lack of understanding about the illness in society, many individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia choose not to disclose their diagnosis with people.
- Individuals with schizophrenia typically have a harder time maintaining friendships, finding housing, and work.
- The media typically portrays people with schizophrenia as being prone to violence, however an individual with schizophrenia is in fact more likely to be a victim of violence than a perpetrator.
There are different outcomes for different people.
- The misconception that people cannot recover from schizophrenia leads to hopelessness and despair. This may cause service providers, friends and families to hold a negative perception towards recovery. BUT, the disorder takes many different courses and varies with each individual. Recent research shows that the earlier this illness is diagnosed and treated the better the outcome. The new antipsychotic medications contribute a great deal, especially to the recovery of newly diagnosed persons and do so with less side effects.
- Some people have episodes of the illness lasting weeks or months with full remission of their symptoms between each episode. People with schizophrenia are not always psychotic! Others have a fluctuating course where symptoms are continuous but rise and fall in intensity. Some people have little variation of their symptoms over time.
- At one end of the spectrum the person has a single episode followed by complete recovery. At the other end, there is the illness that never abates.