Half the clients of our community mental health teams based at Hawdon Street have a diagnosis of schizophrenia or a similar disorders, yet the condition is still often misunderstood.
For Schizophrenia Awareness Week, we spoke to manager there, Sanjeev Choudhary.
Sanjeev says that stigma is still an ongoing issue for our clients with schizophrenia.
"Films and television programs have stereotyped people with schizophrenia to be violent and scary maniacs. Which, when we look at the individual, their symptoms, their history and experience, is simply not the case. People living with schizophrenia are often highly vulnerable and sometimes scared, particularly when experiencing an acute phase of their illness," he says.
While schizophrenia is complex, Sanjeev says that with the right treatment, people can live happy, healthy lives.
"No one person with schizophrenia is the same. Therefore, no one treatment plan is ever the same. By reviewing the client as an individual, not as a statistic or diagnosis, mental health professionals can work with their clients to ensure everyone is living their best version of their life."
People with schizophrenia experience disturbances in their perceptions and their thinking. They can experience symptoms that are predominantly paranoid (such as feeling suspicious and fearful), disorganised (some people have so many thoughts at once that they forget to pay their bills, do the shopping or even why they got on the bus), or catatonic, where they have no thoughts or are so lost in their thinking, that they stop functioning all together (catatonic). Living with schizophrenia can also lead to difficulties with mood, behaviour, thinking ability, social and occupational functioning.
The community teams that operate out of the Hawdon Street Clinic can do a great deal to help people manage schizophrenia.
"Given the varying complexities and needs of those diagnosed with schizophrenia, the teams at Hawdon Street work hard to establish individual care plans, that take into account each person's needs, preferences for treatment and recovery goals. Clinicians at Hawdon Street work closely with their clients to address a variety of areas, including housing, finances, physical health, social rehabilitation, legal, studies, careers, volunteer work," he says.
"We also work closely with our client's next of kin, family, carers and friends, because their love and support of our clients is priceless." he says.
"Whilst health care professionals and service providers are doing their best to support and manage the client, it is the loved ones and family members who were there in the beginning and will be around long after the discharge. The most important thing anyone can do, when supporting someone with schizophrenia is to look after themselves first!