Making sense of 'schizophrenia'

The diagnosis of schizophrenia is 100 years old, and the mental health charity Rethink Mental Illness has marked the anniversary by launching an independent expert commission on the condition.

Professor Mary Boyle from the University of East London says:

“Any campaign is welcome which helps people access the help they need if they are distressed by experiences such as holding very unusual beliefs or hearing voices.”

However, Professor Boyle – a Fellow of the British Psychological Society – goes on to say:

“It's important that the public and the media should be aware of just how much debate and controversy there is over the labelling of experiences like these as symptoms of 'schizophrenia' and over the scientific, personal and social usefulness of thinking about them as disease or illness and prescribing drugs as the primary intervention.

“There is a great deal of evidence that these experiences may be more usefully thought about as understandable responses to very difficult life circumstances. This opens up new ways of thinking about psychotic experiences and also about helping those who are distressed by them.”

Anne Cooke, a Chartered Psychologist, has also commented on Rethink’s campaign and the concept of schizophrenia.

And our History of Psychology Centre is running a seminar on 9 November where Dr Joanna Moncrieff (University College London) will be giving a paper on 'Magic bullets for mental disorders: The evolution of ideas about the nature of drug treatment for scizophrenia'.