Viewpoint: Schizophrenia Commission report

Professor Peter Kinderman is Director of the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society

The ‘Schizophrenia Commission’ has concluded that care for people with schizophrenia in England is falling ‘catastrophically short’, with underinvestment, and consequently patients spending too long in ‘demoralised and dysfunctional’ hospital wards.

The Commission recommends urgent investment and action to tackle stigma and to provide high-quality care, particularly preventative care and promoting recovery.

Misses the point

The Commission’s report is welcome but also slightly misses the point. While care of people in emotional distress is indeed shockingly bad, the Commission missed the opportunity for more thorough-going reform.

There is no good scientific evidence, for instance, that the term “schizophrenia” is useful, and it’s much more likely itself to be stigmatising, confusing and could contribute to the inadequate care people are receiving. 

“There is no good scientific evidence that the term ‘schizophrenia’ is useful, and it’s much more likely itself to be stigmatising” 

Many people do, of course, suffer as a result of psychotic problems such as hallucinations and delusions. And we need to offer better care.

That means understanding the causes of these problems – and particularly the contribution of abuse, social deprivation and traumatic life events on people’s psychological health.

Evidence-based psychological therapies

It also means offering people the kinds of evidence-based psychological therapies and social interventions that have been proven to be effective – in stark contrast to the medications and physical interventions that follow from the disease model of ‘schizophrenia’ and fail people so badly.

So it’s good that the Schizophrenia Commission have identified the shortfalls in our care for very vulnerable and distressed people, good that they recommend that the problems of mental health are taken seriously and that we provide proper levels of funding for mental health serves, but a lot more still needs to be done.“

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