June 21, 2016

In light of the recent Julian Cuddihy court case, media professionals may find this factsheet on Schizophrenia helpful and informative.


What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder which interferes with a person’s ability to recognise what is real, manage his/her emotions, think clearly, make judgments and communicate. Schizophrenia is usually described as a psychotic illness.


How common is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia affects 1 in every 100 people in Ireland at some point in their lives. Annually, 15 new cases occur per 100,000 population.


What are the Symptoms of Schizophrenia?

In psychotic illness, thoughts and feelings do not relate to each other in a logical fashion because the normal chemical messages in the brain are out of balance and as a result the person with schizophrenia may experience a breakdown in usual behaviour.

How is Schizophrenia Diagnosed and Treated?

A psychiatrist will usually diagnose schizophrenia when the individual has had severe disturbances of thinking patterns for at least 6 months during which they may have had hallucinations or delusions. Diagnosis is usually made in the hospital after a full assessment.


Schizophrenia and Violence – Is there a Link?

Research suggests that the commonly held view of the dangerously unbalanced, violent person with schizophrenia is a cliché with little basis in reality. The risk of violent behaviour among people with schizophrenia is only marginally greater than among the rest of the community and only then if someone is experiencing acute, untreated symptoms.

The sad truth is that a person with a mental health problem is 11 times more likely to be a victim of violence whether by someone else or through self-harm. Your age, sex, social status and what’s going on in your life are much better predictors of future violence than a mental health problem.


Schizophrenia accurate Reporting

Loose terminology makes it harder to challenge the stereotypes associated with schizophrenia (“psycho”, “maniac”,“schizo”) and to stimulate a more thoughtful approach to the subject.

Similarly, referring to someone as a ‘schizophrenic’, a ‘depressive’, an ‘anorexic’ etc. is dismissive and defines the person solely in terms of their illness. It is preferable to use terminology such as a person with schizophrenia, a person with depression etc


How the media can help

Media stories about schizophrenia often result in people becoming worried and wanting more information about the disorder. Should they wish to find more information they can contact SHINE.


Shine (Shine Confidential Helpline1890-621631 Monday – Friday 9am-4pm or email Phil@shineonline.ie) is the Irish national organisation that promotes the interests of those affected by schizophrenia.


By considering the above points when producing content and includingthe contact address and telephone number of Shine in the media, journalists can increase public understanding of schizophrenia as well as assisting people who are directly affected in getting the help and support that they need.


For any more information on media guidelines relating to stories on Mental Health please contact Headline at info@headline.ie