Mental Health Stigma Remains, Prescriptions Increase
The Los Angeles Times reports that despite "extensive research" indicating that most people with schizophrenia improve with treatment, stereotypes "clin[g]" to the "outdated notion" the patients will "deteriorate." This "pessimistic view" of schizophrenia is based on research conducted in the early 1900s that found that "such patients were hopeless," the Times reports. Because this "profound stigma" continues today, those who recover from schizophrenia "often live secretive lives" and the public rarely sees the "success stories" of mental illness. Instead, media attention focuses on "headline grabbing cases" that "discredit and marginalize people." More than 75% of people with schizophrenia have a "complete or at least functional recovery" with the right treatment. But the Times also reports that the mental health system is "ill-equipped" to treat the 2.5 million Americans who have been diagnosed with the condition. Less than half of schizophrenics receive any treatment, 25% receive vocational assistance and "just 10% receive family therapy." Courtenay Harding, a member of a Yale research team that tracked the recovery rate for schizophrenics that received treatment said, "[T]he belief that schizophrenia is incurable is so deeply embedded that no amount of facts seem to make a difference." She added, "The real tragedy is we knew in the 1950s what we needed to do to reclaim lives, yet is hasn't been applied" (Marsa, Los Angeles Times, 3/19).
In other mental health news, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that pharmaceutical sales for psychiatric conditions are "dwarf[ing]" the GNP of most small countries, and critics say psychiatrists and the drug industry are contributing to a "rush to medicate" patients with symptoms of disorders. Some attribute the increase in medication to a "growing understanding" of mental health which has led to more people being diagnosed with conditions. But others say managed care has "induced" doctors to prescribe medication instead of therapy sessions (Vedantam, Philadelpia Inquirer, 3/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.