Living with Schizophrenia

The BPS runs a public lecture in connection with Mental Health Day which this year was last Friday and, as always, it’s fascinating.

This year kicked off with an interesting lecture on preventing psychosis by trying to identify At Risk Mental states before psychosis actually develops which seems a very sensible approach. So far it’s not been entirely successful or rather has apparently not been as successful as they would like. Among many problems in the area is that having an at risk mental state does not guarantee that you’ll go on to develop psychosis but combine that with an environment where you are exposed to other psychotic individuals (e.g. in the family) and it’s a lot more likely. Also, there’s the “problem” that once they’ve identified people at risk, they tend to go directly to interventions and therefore in a number of cases they’re succeeding by stopping the psychosis early (and stopping it early is key). So, overall, the direct figures seem unlikely to ever look good and it would seem that it will be the statistics that’ll show the results.

Next up was a lecture looking at the impact of trauma caused by the troubles in NI on psychosis. You might think that this would be easy to identify but in practice it’s incredibly difficult for a whole range of factors. For one thing, those remaining in the troubled areas ended up getting a lot of community support and solidarity so tended to have less in the way of psychosis than you would expect. In contrast, those who moved out of those areas had more psychosis apparently due to the upheaval and the lack of cohesion in the communities in which they ended up.

They finished with two lectures by people who have experienced psychosis directly. The first lady gave quite a moving talk on how not accepting that she had a psychosis made life much more difficult for her and her family than it might have been if she had acknowledged that she was bipolar at the start. To me though, it was the final talk that was by far the most impressive. It was by a guy who frankly would have been considered a total psycho but I think that it would be unusual if he’d not reached that point given the childhood experiences that he had to work through. However, he did work through those experiences and was lucky enough to eventually get proper treatment for his illness which is keeping his psychosis at bay and seems to have eliminated his former (understandable) tendencies to violence. He showed very clearly that early diagnosis is a major advantage not only to the psychotic individual but to those that they come in contact with.



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