Living a healthy life with schizophrenia

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Mental disorders affect more than a third of the population in the European Region every year, and around 1–2% of these people are diagnosed with psychotic disorders. World Mental Health Day is observed every year on 10 October, to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world.

The focus for 2014 is living a healthy life with schizophrenia, a condition still powerfully associated with many incorrect perceptions of mental illness as untreatable, dangerous and hopeless. Many people with schizophrenia experience mistreatment, lack of respect, neglect and discrimination.

“I am not ashamed of having been ‘crazy’ or ‘schizophrenic’, but I realize that most people, who know little or nothing about psychiatry or psychology, are horrified by the mere mention of such conditions,” says Lia, who suffered from periods of paranoid schizophrenia for over 3 years.

The reality is that people diagnosed with schizophrenia can live full lives with the appropriate treatment and a healthy lifestyle. About half of people with schizophrenia cannot access adequate treatment, however, and this proportion is higher in poorer countries.

WHO’s response

WHO believes strongly that every person with a mental health problem, whatever the diagnosis, has the right to access the same opportunities as everyone else and to receive mental health services according to his or her needs and aspirations. This is central to the vision of the European Mental Health Action Plan, endorsed by all Member States in the Region in 2013.

The Action Plan encourages mental health services not only to offer treatment but also to create “opportunities that empower people with mental health problems to make use of their own assets, and to participate fully in community and family life in ways they would choose and to which they are entitled”. Mental health services should be rights based, and inspired by the needs and hopes of the person, irrespective of diagnosis or disability. They are about fostering hope and inspiring personal achievement.

Accessibility and affordability

Mental health services should be accessible, competent and affordable by everyone, and treatment has to be respectful, safe and effective. Emphasis should be given to putting in place procedures that help prevent early death in people with schizophrenia, and the stigma and neglect they can suffer in general health care.

Life expectancy for people with mental health problems is 10–25 years shorter than that for the general population. World Mental Health Day is a great opportunity to raise awareness and enable change.