Web Films Fight Schizophrenia Bias
> 8/18/2009 8:21:55 AM


A British mental health advocacy group called Time to Change followed recent trends in viral film marketing to create a series of shorts designed to counter a societal bias against the mentally ill. These films, available to watch for no charge on the organization's web site, use the familiar style of American horror movie trailers to dispel damaging stereotypes.
The clips revolve around the story of one man who has built a successful life for himself despite a schizophrenia diagnosis, because his experiences clearly contradict public opinion. More than 1/3 of participants in a related survey, for example, seem frightened by the very word schizophrenia. They falsely believe that individuals who've been diagnosed with this disorder are much more likely to perpetrate random acts of violence and pose a threat to the well-being of those around them. Uninformed, borderline-paranoid opinions are understandable given the treatment of schizophrenic subjects in the popular news and entertainment industries. The schizophrenic subject of these films admits that he also held such biases before his diagnosis. Unfortunately, it's beliefs like these that feed so many of the problems facing schizophrenic individuals. Despite the fact that most affected subjects are intelligent, coherent members of society, full integration often proves difficult. Job prospects, for example, may suffer if potential employers learn of a schizophrenia or bipolar disorder diagnosis.
The points made by these films are crucial: individuals with schizophrenia or other related disorders are not frightening or dangerous. The likelihood of being struck by lightning is considerably greater than the chance that one will suffer abuse or violence at the hands of a schizophrenic subject. These individuals need the help and support of family, friends, medical professionals and the general public. Those who lack this all-important safety net are far more likely to fall into drug abuse and vagrancy, and the likelihood of disturbing or violent behavior on their behalf only increases when influenced by elements like addiction, rejection and poverty or homelessness. We continue to reinforce the fact that mental illness is in no way a sign of personal weakness. Affirmative diagnoses do not make for dangerous individuals. These films may seem like little more than a drop in the endless data bucket, but with the right amount of publicity they could foster a greater sense of compassion for the millions who suffer with these conditions every day. 

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