Let me ask two related questions. Have you ever heard from any media source a story of 'a schizophrenic' killing themselves? Have you ever heard from any media source a story of 'a schizophrenic' killing or trying to kill someone? I'd venture that the vast majority of people would answer no, and then yes. That really annoys me for two reasons.
Firstly it's the way the perpetrator is reduced to a condition. Headlines tend to lead with 'A schizophrenic...' and it's normally not until after you've heard about the crime that you learn anything more, even the name, of the person. Let me put it this way – with virtually any other medical condition (which is exactly what schizophrenia is) you'd only find out about it after a few paragraphs. Now I'm not naïve, I realise that one of the reasons is it's an attention grabber but have a second to think of the way other 'groups' of people are often treated the same. I don't want to widen this into things I have no first hand knowledge of as that's not the point of this blog but to pick two examples that simply don't apply to me how about Muslims and Lesbians. Respectfully, I can easily imagine either word pre-ceeding 'has murdered' or something similar in a headline and it's prejudice pure and simple . Some might prefer to call it stigma against mental health sufferers but I see it as something more than that.
Getting back specifically to schizophrenia there's another dimension in that there must always be an enquiry, and it is bound to be used by the newspapers as a feeding frenzy. These things don't happen quickly, and added to the time (and consequently press exposure) that the crime takes to come to court often one crime can be a regular news item for a whole year. Frankly this breeds prejudice and fear (again there are parallels elsewhere) by not only worrying people about the 'group' but also how they are being 'controlled'. Ask anyone about schizophrenia and it's unlikely they'll be able to talk for long without mentioning violence. Not deliberately or through malice, merely through perception.
Secondly is how rare it actually is. Originally this was going to be a piece about suicide as that is a real and serious concern with schizophrenia, but I seem to have taken a diversion. They are also just normal people with a medical condition who, as normal people do, get angry about things and maybe lose their temper sometimes. Sometimes people lose their tempers and go too far in some way. The truth though is that perception is generally wrong when based on drip-drip reporting.
When my son was first diagnosed his doctor at the YPU spent some time with myself and his Mother to have a chat about any general things about the condition we'd like to know (he'd done the same with our son on his own which was how my son wanted it). One of the questions we asked was, due no doubt to our perception at the time, was about violence. He showed us a set of Home Office figures which showed that, in every category of violence against the person, people with schizophrenia committed way below the average of those crimes. He also showed figures that schizophrenics were far far more likely than average to commit suicide.
That's the truth of the matter, rather than the perception.
ps – I haven't been able to post recently as I've been rather diverted by something unconnected with this blog but I'm absolutely not abandoning it in any way. I very much doubt it could ever be a daily blog but I aim to put at least two posts up a week, most weeks. Thank you for taking the trouble to read this far.