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Schizophrenia: Back in the Spotlight at Last?

Oprah’s latest book selection, a new memoir, and HBO’s series with Mark Ruffalo – is schizophrenia finally going to get the attention it deserves?

Of all the SMIs (Serious Mental Illnesses) in the news lately, schizophrenia always seems to get the short shrift; it’s like the last mental illness in the closet. 

Unless, of course, there’s a horrific incident of violence. Then the questions about sanity begin…and often finger-pointing at schizophrenia. And then, advocates like me have to bring out the statistics to defend our loved ones: 

  • No, schizophrenics are not “more violent”
  • No, schizophrenia does not mean “split personality”
  • No, it’s not the fault of “bad parenting”.

Currently, this brain illness is back in vogue with three exciting spotlights:

Will these open eyes at last?
  1. Oprah’s book club selection is Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker – about a family with 12 children – 6 of whom developed schizophrenia
  2. HBO has begun airing the mini-series based on the wonderful (and devastating) Wally Lamb Novel, I Know This Much Is True.
  3. A new memoir is to be released next month:, He Came In With It, by Mimi Feldman

And still, the myths – and lack of attention to research – continue. As fellow author and advocate Feldman points out in her forthcoming book and a recent guest blog post for Pete Earley, 

A huge question looms:

"Why is bringing those with schizophrenia (and other serious mental illnesses) simply to a state of zombie-like compliance considered a success?"

I have my theories, one of which is this: many don’t see people with schizophrenia as save-able, or – worse –  worth saving. Because the illness often robs them of so much besides reality: their joy, their charm, their ability to empathize.

Still, those of us who love someone with this devastating illness, who knew them before it took hold,  can attest to the fact that they are worth saving. They are locked up inside that shell. We love them, and occasionally we see what could be – if only we could find a CURE, not just a management tool.

Right now, as we all struggle with our own kinds of isolation in this covid-19 surreal life, imagine what it might be like to feel that isolated all the time. In the words of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, ATTENTION MUST BE PAID.

Let’s hope these three works of art will propel us toward the changes we need to see – and help bring our loved ones with schizophrenia the respect, love, and CURE that they deserve.

We’d give anything to see their joy again.

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