Schizophrenia: On the human side of mental illness

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By SOLA OGUNDIPE

THE first time I watched “People Say I’m Crazy”, a film by John Cadigan who documented his life for 10 years following diagnosis with schizophrenia, I fully understood the human side of mental illness.

The unfiltered realism, honesty and optimism portrayed by the  film, essentially highlighted what it is like to have a mental illness and also to appreciate that people with mental illness can not just survive, but also thrive.

No doubt a serious and often debilitating illness, schizophrenia is quite more common than envisaged, and this film is proof more than anything else that mental illness can be properly managed if only people are enabled to cope, understand and relate to its effects.

On this year’s World Schizophrenia Day, May 24, the need for critical examination of the nation’s general wellbeing, physically and mentally, was paramount, as Cutler Ogilvy PR took up its wellness campaign tagged “Promoting the General Wellbeing of Nigerians” in managing physical and mental health with focus on schizophrenia.

An estimated 1 in 100 persons are affected in Nigeria. “Schizophrenia is part of our reality and Nigerians should neither stigmatise nor discriminate against people with this mental illness,” noted Laura Oloyede, Chief Operating Officer, Cutler Ogilvy PR.

“Rather they should join in proffering a solution by pointing such people to the direction of where they can get professional help. We must realize that our health status is important and we should seek professional help when the need arises.”

Dr. Deji Morenikeji, Medical Director, Triumph Medical Centre, Lagos, says, basically, schizophrenia is a brain disorder that affects personal health, action, thought and view of the world. “Early signs include social withdrawal, hostility or suspiciousness, deterioration of personal hygiene, expressionless gaze and inability to cry or express joy.

“It can be characterized by breakdown of thought, with punctuations of hallucinations, causing the sufferer to be frightened and paranoid. Other signs of schizophrenia include inappropriate laughter or crying, depression, irrational statements, loss of memory, excessive sleep or insomnia among others.

Morenikeji notes that common causes are genetic or environmental in nature and could be linked to abnormal brain structure. ”

Schizophrenia can be diagnosed through psychiatric evaluation, medical history and laboratory tests. It has no cure but is a treatable mental disorder. The key is to have a strong support system to provide the right treatment.”

On treatment,  he noted: “If you are getting the right treatment and stick to it, you are much less likely to experience a crisis situation that requires hospitalization to keep you safe.”

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