Most Important Things Not To Say To A Person With Schizophrenia

1. That’s the one with multiple personalities, isn’t it?

I’ve heard this one twice I think, in hospital from other patients. Schizophrenia is NOT multiple personalities, despite the common myth. Multiple personalities is the disorder now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder, previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder. The myth stemmed from the translation of the word schizophrenia, which translates from Greek to mean ‘split mind’. This doesn’t mean that the mind is split into different personalities, it means that a mind is split from reality.

2. Have you ever been violent towards anyone because of your illness?

I’ve heard this one a few times and the answer is still no. Violence with schizophrenia is the exception rather than the rule, despite all the stories of schizophrenia and extreme violence in the news. Let me put it this way. About 1% of the population suffers with schizophrenia, which would mean that as there’s approximately 63 million people in the UK, there are around 630,000 sufferers.

3. Have you tried not listening to the voices?

This one is something that has been said in the nicest possible way but is still highly irritating to hear. If voices were as simple as just not listening to them, don’t you think I would have done it? Voices aren’t like people. You can’t walk away from voices, they follow you wherever you go. You can use music or television to try and drown them out but I’ve had voices that decided to get louder when I turned my music on. I do everything I can to try and drown out voices, but I can’t just not listen to them. It’s not that simple. By the way, this point only applies to those who actually hear voices, as not all people with schizophrenia hear voices.

4. Just take the meds, then you’ll be OK.

This one makes me want to tear my hair out. Some people seem to think that treating schizophrenia is as black and white as the meds will automatically help all people with the illness and they’ll be OK forever providing they just take them. Wrong. The usual type of medication for schizophrenia is the antipsychotic. I’ve been on nine different antipsychotics so far, of which seven have been used in the longer term.

5. Why did you come off medication?

This question is usually accompanied by a look that says, “Are you stupid?” Like I said in the previous point, schizophrenia treatment is not as black and white as taking medication and being miraculously cured.