Schizophrenia carries a large amount of stigma, the idea that it involves a lot of health care service funding, and many individuals report shame from this label. Therefore, through changing the name we can attempt to reduce the stigma, and try to improve the public image of the disorder by giving a more realistic perception. Many people, for example, believe that schizophrenia encompasses “split personality”, which is incorrect. Schizophrenia is in fact a split from reality, an individual that experiences two of the following: hallucinations, delusions, disorganised thoughts, or negative symptoms (flat affect, rigid behaviour, etc.). However, the public’s idea is that a schizophrenic is simply an individual who has multiple personalities, an individual who at one point is Jack, and the next Jill. A change of name could create the opportunity to start afresh and attempt to educate, use anti-stigma campaigns, encourage public debate, and promote hope and recovery for those with this disorder.
Interestingly, research has found that healthcare professionals attempt to avoid giving the label “schizophrenic” when diagnosing an individual due to the large stigma that is accompanied with this label. However, by avoiding such a label they are also reducing the patient’s chance of recovery. One reason for the labelling of an individual is to ensure that the correct interventions are put in place, to enhance the likelihood that the individual will be able to overcome their disorder and live a “normal” life. Through the use of a name change, or rebranding, we can ensure that the individuals get the correct interventions in order to alleviate symptomology and reduce likely relapse that may result from incorrect intervention.
In a discussion by Clement and Foster (2008) it was made clear how public perceptions of schizophrenia are truly defined by media portrayals, whether that be exaggerated portrayals in movies or television shows, or even overexposure through news broadcasting resulting in the perception that schizophrenics are violent. As a result of this miscommunication, an exaggerated, and often negative view, of schizophrenia develops and can result in the stigma that is seen today. Through changing the name, this stigma could in turn disappear as individuals will no longer have an association between the new name and the previous negative portrayals (Lasalvia, Penta, Sartorius, & Henderson, 2015).
On the other hand, Lasalvia et al. (2015) discussed some of the disadvantages to changing the name. They believed that it would be a long and dubious process that would require a large amount of implementation. Furthermore, it would involve affecting patients, carers, and the general public’s ideas of mental health and the appropriate labels, which could actually increase confusion rather than alleviate it. Brabban et al. (2013) further believed that name changes are irrelevant, instead what needs to be done is to change public perception. It is unlikely, according to Brabban et al., that a name change alone would alleviate stigma or even change public perception. Although, a change of the name would be an initial step towards changing public perception and therefore could actually lead to reduced public stigma in the long-term through the appropriate educational avenues.
Overall, although it is unlikely to have any change for some time, it is likely that some change in name could be the first step in reducing the stigma associated with schizophrenia, whilst also allowing individuals to gain the most beneficial interventions for reducing the psychosis and chance of later relapse. Although it is a minor change, it is likely, if given the correct implementation, to have a large repercussions in the long-term in reducing public stigma and trying to reduce overall negative portrayals of the disorder.
Useful Contact Numbers
Mind: 0300 123 3393
ReThink: 0300 5000 927
Samaritans: 08457 90 90 90
Nightline: 0191 334 6444