Mental health leaders are calling on the community to stay connected this Schizophrenia Awareness Week (17-24 May), which will be a fully virtual event for the first time in its 34-year history.

The Queensland Mental Health Commission (QMHC) and the Queensland Alliance for Mental Health (QAMH) have banded together to support the week’s aims of combatting stigma, raising awareness, and promoting support services for people living with schizophrenia and their families, carers and friends.

Queensland Mental Health Commissioner Ivan Frkovic said there were still many misconceptions about schizophrenia.

“We need to enhance social inclusion, and reduce stigma and discrimination, by addressing the facts and stamping out the myths associated with schizophrenia,” he said.

“Contrary to common belief, a person living with schizophrenia is no more dangerous or violent than anyone else. In fact they are more likely to be victims of violence.

“Schizophrenia affects one in 100 people. Symptoms include psychosis, which can make it difficult to tell what is real and what is not.

“It can cause muddled thinking, hearing voices, and a range of unusual behaviours and beliefs.

“It is treatable, and I encourage those living with schizophrenia to seek a holistic approach to treatment, as new research shows that schizophrenia and other physical conditions go hand in hand.

“The COVID19 pandemic has taught many of us the importance of social connections, seeking help when you need it, and empathy for others – all values that align with this year’s Schizophrenia Awareness Week ‘Stay Connected’ theme,” Mr Frkovic said.

QAMH CEO Jennifer Black said staying connected to friends, family, mental health supports and community was extremely important for those living with schizophrenia.

“I want the wider sector to join me and the QMHC in spreading the message of awareness throughout the week,” she said.

“People with schizophrenia can experience significant stigma so it is important that we all play a part in the sharing of accurate and evidence-based information. 

“Unfortunately, many people have little understanding about schizophrenia; instead, their preconceptions come from portrayals in movies and media which are often inaccurate or sensationalised.

“That is why this week we are promoting the facts and debunking the myths associated with schizophrenia.”

Schizophrenia Awareness Week includes World Schizophrenia Awareness Day (24 May).

A range of online events includes One Door Mental Health’s annual symposium, which will be a virtual event. Find more information here.

Find more information about schizophrenia, including resources on treatment and diagnosis, at SANE.