The stigmatization and history of schizophrenia
Stigmatization of the mentally ill has been practiced for generations. Schizophrenia is among these stigmatized mental illnesses, evoking a lengthy history of violence against those simply in need of treatment.
Researchers from the Stanley Medical Research Institute and The Stanley Division of Developmental Neurovirology attempted to gather information about the extent of this violence acted on schizophrenia patients during Nazi Germany. Between 220,000 and 269,500 individuals with schizophrenia were sterilized or killed between 1939 and 1945, amounting to between 73 and 100 percent of those with the condition in Germany during that era.
The researchers, E. Fuller Torrey and Robert H. Yolken, consider this the “greatest criminal act in the history of psychiatry.”
Particular stigma and persecution against the schizophrenic in that time period was rooted in the belief that schizophrenia passed down through generations. Nazi doctors Ernst Rüdin, once head of Genealogical-Demographic Department of the German Institute for Psychiatric Research in Munich, and Franz Kallmann believed the mentally ill should not have children. As such, Kallmann agreed and pushed for sterilization not just of the mentally ill, but of their families as well.
The present day presents comparatively more humane perspectives on treatment of the mentally ill and their families, according to Heather Stuart of the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology of Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada. The burden and stigma of mental illness has drawn the attention of the World Health Organization, the World Association for Social Psychiatry and other bodies concerned with human well-being.
One particular program hosted by concerned people is the Open-the-Doors program, an international organization focused on three primary goals: The first objective involves a comprehensive set of priorities built around needs assessments translating to multiple levels of care. The second objective entails members of communities providing sympathy and resources to mental illness patients. The final goal recognizes the pervasive nature of stigma and the need for small projects in many communities for breaking down the negative thought processes concerning those with mental health issues.
Stigma is also a concern for Sovereign Health Group as we know the social isolation, violence and other symptoms of bigotry can take a toll on people needing help in the darkest time of their lives. To find help in this difficult period, please call 866-616-3277.
Written by Nicholas Ruiz, Sovereign Health Group writer