Failed approach to schizophrenia


Excerpts from Dr. Paul Steinberg’s article in the New York Times recently. Dr. Steinberg is a psychiatrist in private practice. 

‘In the USA, there has been a swing in mental health care over the past 50 years; too little hospitalization of teenagers and young adults who have had a recent onset of schizophrenia and too little education about the public health impact of untreated mental health disorders; too few psychiatrists to talk about and treat severe mental disorders, even though the medications available can be remarkably effective.

Psychosis means losing touch with reality and is an umbrella term. The most common source of severe psychosis in young adults is schizophrenia, which means ‘split personality’ in Greek, but is actually a physiological disorder. This illness usually rears its head between the ages of 15 and 24 and there are early signs. Acute symptoms do not appear until adolescence or young adulthood.

People suffering from schizophrenia are unaware of how strange their thinking has become and do not seek treatment. At Virginia Tech, where Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people in a rampage shooting in 2007, his  professors knew that something was terribly wrong, but he was not hospitalized for long enough to get well.

Parents and classmates of Jared L. Loughner, who killed 6 people and shot and injured 13 others including a member of Congress in 2011, did not know where to turn.

We may never know what demons tormented Adam Lanza, who slaughtered 26 people at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012, though his acts strongly suggest undiagnosed schizophrenia.

Too many people with acute schizophrenia have gone untreated. There have been too many Glocks, too many children and adults cut down in their prime. Enough already.’

I am convinced that if teachers, professors, parents and students knew more about the early onset signs of this illness, they would be able to bring this information to the attention of professionals who would know what to do.

To do this, we have to bring mental illness out into the open, which is what I have been writing about for a very long time.  HELP ME PLEASE. The more people who take up this task, the faster we will get there.


2 thoughts on “Failed approach to schizophrenia

  1. whyjustgosouth

    You’re right: prevention is by far better than cure (although it’s not an either/or for those already with the condition)… but “remarkably effective”… is he taking the piss? If you consider zombifying and disabling acceptable necessary evils worth paying for not having hallucinations (I think it’s a rather close call), then yes they are effective but for those who are not best pleased with what I would refer to, at best, as a part time life then the way they are remarkably horrible, depressing, uninspiring, and oxysupressant (life-suppressing).

    I’m also not convinced that “they would know what to do”. There have not been many instances where schizophrenia was diagnosed before the first serious period of psychosis (I’m not aware of any) so an intervention at this stage would be experimental to begin with. But you’re absolutely right -schizophrenia could easily be caught young and therefore better understood.

  2. Pamela Spiro Wagner

    “actually a physiological disorder”…Well, everything that goes on in one’s mind has a fundamentally physiological basis, but so to call schizophrenia physiological is saying nothing in some sense.

    But the way it is put in this context, I have my doubts. If it is a “chemical imbalance” as the shrinks like to shorthand it, what chemicals are out of whack and most importantly what are the proper levels necessary to be balanced? In point of fact, NO ONE can tell you 1) which chemicals or neurotransmitters are out of balance nor in which direction, 2) no one knows what the proper or average balance should be in any event.

    They haven’t even determined what schizophrenia is, for cripes sake, not so it can be diagnosed or ruled out with reasonable accuracy or reliability. The doctors like to pretend that they know what they are doing when they prescribe a given drug for schizophrenia, but they are more in the dark than they let on. They essentially guess when choosing which drug to try first…esp when they meet a new patient and do not know her or his history of medication trials.

    What bothers me the most is the rush to keep a once-psychotic person on meds forever. THey know that a third of psychoses will resolve permanently without ever returning. But nowadays everyone is told he or she must take meds for life. That is nonsense, it is creating an illness where none would have been had the person not been forced to take antipsychotic meds longterm.


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