Britain's treatment of schizophrenia patients called "shameful"

The phrase "mad house" often evokes haunting images seen in horror movies.

Tortured patients, screams, evil doctors and nurses--these are all negative cultural stereotypes of mental institutions. But a recent report in the UK suggests that care for schizophrenia patients in Britain might hit too close to home when it comes to these stereotypes.

The report

The report was written by a panel of mental health practitioners, collectively known as the Schizophrenia Commission. Specialists on the panel interviewed more than 80 experts and patients, as well as more than 2,500 people who provided online feedback.

In general, the report claimed that there were "catastrophic failings" in Britain's care of schizophrenia patients and "shameful" standards set forth in some institutions. Some places were deemed so bad, in fact, that experts warned schizophrenia patients would probably get worse, not better, as residents there. Robin Murray, a professor of psychiatric research at Britain's Institute of Psychiatry, elaborates:

"Here, you get admitted to a mad house. And some of these places are very anti-therapeutic--not only for patients but also for staff. No sensible person would want to be admitted to one of these places."

The "abandoned illness"

Being described as the "abandoned illness," it seems no one in Britain wants to deal with schizophrenic patients. The report found that many healthcare workers at mental institutions there are suffering from burnout and pessimism. That pervasive negativity is also compounded by consistently reinforced negative stereotypes about schizophrenia, the report stated.

"In this country we've become preoccupied with the idea that schizophrenia means a madman with an axe," said Murray, also noting that Britain could take notice of countries like the Netherlands and Switzerland, where schizophrenia care--and mental health care in general--is focused more on calm and nurturing environments, not harsh and unnecessary security measures.

The World Health Organization estimates that about half of all people with schizophrenia don't get the appropriate care they need, leading to early deaths and other negative outcomes. These people often end up in dire situations, explains Paul Jenkins, chief executive of the charity Rethink Mental Illness.

"Too many people are falling through the gaps in the system and ending up in prison or homeless," he said.

Source: Reuters

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