By Mark Ellerby
Key Themes: schizophrenia, recovery, self-help, advice, information
This, Mark Ellerby's fourth book on the subject of schizophrenia, deals further with his experiences of and thoughts on living with schizophrenia. This book explores some very important and pressing issues and in doing so debunks some myths and exposes many truths. Mark is an entertaining and informative writer and this is a worthy addition to his previous works.
About the Author
My biographical history is very much dominated by schizophrenia which began at age 21. I had just graduated from university and starting a PhD. course in political philosophy. I had to give up my PhD. after a five year struggle with the illness due to a lack of information to hand about what hearing voices actually is.
Changing the labels? As I said in a previous essay I was so confused by all the terms which surround having a mental illness and the wrongful connotations some of them have I really had no idea what was going on even when the doctor diagnosed me. This to me raises the question would changing the labels make the whole confusing problems of being schizophrenic any clearer from the outset?
‘Manic Depression’ was replaced by the label ‘bi-polar’ which is much more self explanatory. I have recently heard of proposals to replace the label schizophrenia too. In the end you cannot avoid the above confusions of explaining the illness without being careful about exactly what you say, and what you might leave out.
‘Schizophrenia’ is a real umbrella term covering a number of different symptoms and indeed types of illness. It may be better just to divide the diagnosis up on this basis, though often the different symptoms are experienced by the same individual. To my ears as I said the word itself sounded frightening even though I was still very unclear about its meaning.
About the easiest label for the lay person to understand is depression. Depression is so common place that not only will everyone have heard of it they will probably know someone who has had it themselves, and more than likely within their own families. I see no point in replacing this label and it seems as it seems quite innocuous.
I have often thought that the best thing to say instead of schizophrenia is that ‘you are hallucinating’ or ‘you are having delusions.’ But both of these are far from perfect but do not have the associations of the label schizophrenia which a lot of people would immediately connect with a split personality and Jekyll and Hyde.
Hallucinations are often associated with phenomena such as mirage or delirium. It is well known that in a desert people see things in the heat which are not really there. This also happens when someone has a fever and I have seen this in a couple of movies too. I think it is better to start with everyday explanations not just medical ones.
So this might be a useful first explanatory link and might just avoid the first associations of schizophrenia. This is already how I have seen doctors technically denote what lay people call hearing voices, which they term ‘auditory hallucinations.’ Hallucinating also sounds a lot better and much less dangerous than saying someone hears voices.
‘Being delusional’ again sounds a lot better to me than schizophrenia. Delusions are in popular knowledge associated with insanity: such as ‘delusions of grandeur’. The immediate reaction here might even by humorous as such ideas seem comical and absurd to the lay man.
‘Paranoid delusions’ is another close association with schizophrenia and in this respect this could be a very counterproductive label. Again I think there is a suggestion of danger associated with someone who is paranoid about people persecuting them. It is hard to see a way past this problem by simply using new terminology.
It might be to try to give an example here of famous people who have had the same problem. There are lots of popular films Such as The Madness of King George and a Beautiful Mind starring Russell Crowe. This seems the best way to defuse the connotations which arise from an initial diagnosis.
Saying that someone is ‘psychotic’ or ‘paranoid’ is also very frightening but this may become apparent from their behaviour anyway. Again ‘hearing voices’ to my mind had much the same connotations of violence which I dimly associated with media reports on schizophrenia. The whole issue of how to explain it in the end seems very difficult.
OTHER WORKS BY THIS AUTHOR
This product was added to our catalog on Thursday 02 November, 2006.