Call for awareness

BENDIGO Health psychiatric services director Associate Professor Philip Tune says schizophrenia remains a misunderstood and stigmatised condition.

"Probably it's due largely to portrayals in movies and TV shows," he said.

"Media reporting contributes to that as well because you only hear when things go badly wrong."

Last week, SANE Australia chief executive Jack Heath urged all Australians to take the opportunity to learn more about the illness that affects one in one hundred people over a lifetime.

May 11 to 18 marked Schizophrenia Awareness Week.

"We have to explain that it's a medical condition, that there's genetic and other conditions that contribute to people with schizophrenia having a degree of brain dysfunction," Associate Professor Tune said. 

"When they're unwell, their brains aren't working properly - there's a chemical imbalance and it's very much a medical condition."

Associate Professor Tune said a common misunderstanding, for example, was everyone living with schizophrenia is dangerous or unpredictable.

"That's just very, very misleading and very stigmatisting," he said.

"One of the very common misunderstandings is that it's something to do with split personalities.

"That's absolutely incorrect."

Associate Professor Tune said the condition did not distinguish between men and women or socio-economic background.

He said the new Bendigo Hospital would have more mental health beds.

"That will enable for the capacity for people to stay a bit longer if they need to and not be in the emergency department waiting for a bed," he said.

"Access will be better."

Mr Heath said with appropriate treatment and support, people living with schizophrenia should feel positive about their future. 

"To help achieve this we urgently need a national, long-term and targeted campaign to reduce the stigma associated with psychotic illnesses," Mr Heath said.

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