According to a new study, many Ontario residents are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the symptoms of schizophrenia.
The poll, conducted by Ipsos and commissioned by the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores), was intended to determine how the province’s residents view and understand the disease, which, according to the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, affects 300,000 Canadians.
The findings determined more than half of the people surveyed—57 percent—believe people living with schizophrenia have multiple personalities, something that is not actually symptomatic of the disease.
“It’s hurtful how little people know about schizophrenia,” Candice McAlister, a resident of Bowmanville, Ontario whose brother has lived with the disease for more than 15 years, said in a news release.
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“At the time, it was a popular belief that only those people who had a bad childhood, or experienced abuse or trauma would develop a mental illness, especially one like schizophrenia. This was not the case for my brother, but it made me feel more isolated because I didn’t want others to think that about my brother or family,” McAlister adds.
Additionally, while many people in Ontario have been pushing for more awareness of mental illnesses—through initiatives like Bell Let’s Talk Day—schizophrenia is still a very stigmatized illness; according to the poll results, 61 percent of Ontarians said they wouldn’t date someone with the disease, and 55 said they wouldn’t know how to act around someone living with it.
“This confirms what we already knew,” Karim Mamdani, President and CEO of Ontario Shores, said in a news release. “People living with schizophrenia are misunderstood, isolated and ignored.”
“If schizophrenia was a chronic physical illness, people living with it would be treated with compassion, understanding and respect,” Mamdani said. “With treatment, people living with schizophrenia can lead a meaningful life. As a society we need to be caring, empathetic and encouraging of treatment and support.”
Even more alarming were the number of people who admitted they would be apprehensive of people living with schizophrenia—34 percent said they wouldn’t be willing to hire someone living with the disease, while 38 percent said they wouldn’t rent an apartment or room to someone living with the disease, and 10 percent believed people living with schizophrenia should be removed from society entirely.
“Today, my brother has completed his high school credits, has a car, drives, works part time, and he’s happy,” McAlister added. “He’s come a long way compared to those darkest times. It’s important that people start to understand, empathize and encourage, and it’s critical to know that things can get better.”