It was a mind blowing story that splashed across the headlines in Canada. A young man had been mercilessly butchered on the Greyhound bus from Edmonton to Manitoba. His killer was a 40 year old male, who was a fellow passenger. One question that still rings in everyone’s mind is what could have driven someone to do such a thing? The answer to this question lies in the mind of the victim’s killer. According to him, he heard voices- voices that told him to kill the victim. Really? Can voices tell another person to kill a Friend? Neighbor? Spouse? Stranger?
Fast forward to 2017, the stories of murdering another person and seeking mental asylum have become quite common.
For the sake of time, we may not be able to discuss whether or not those arrested have true mental disorders, but I would like to take a critical look at “hearing voices” as an intro to the mental health disorder Schizophrenia…
Schizophrenia is a long-term mental disorder that is diagnosed based on certain specific symptoms. In Psychiatry, there is a classification system known as the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) which is used as a guide to diagnose mental disorders. The most current version used is DSM V (five). According to DSM V, a person is diagnosed with Schizophrenia if they have 2 of the following 5 symptoms.
1) delusions- A false belief held despite strong evidence against it; self-deception
2) hallucinations- something (such as an image, a sound, or a smell) that seems real but does not really exist (eg. a person saying they see bugs crawling on their skin when there are none)
3) disorganized speech - when a patient's speech is not coherent or has different ideas in the same sentence
4) disorganized or catatonic behavior(when the patient holds a particular position for prolonged periods of time eg. standing with 1 hand raised)
5) negative symptoms.
Of the 2 symptoms present, at least one of them must be either a delusion, hallucinations or disorganized speech.
In Schizhophrenia, there are what we call negative symptoms (listed above) and positive symptoms.
- Positive (+ve) Symptoms or Plus symptoms- think about these as extra symptoms a patient has eg. hallucinations and delusions
- Negative (-ve) symptoms- they describe thoughts or behaviour that the person used to have before they became ill but now no longer have or have to a lesser extent and so have been lost or taken away from their psyche. It describes normal aspects of the person’s behaviour that they no longer have. Negative symptoms can include lethargy (lack of energy to carry out activities) and apathy (lack of interest in activity).
Schizophrenia can be a complex mental disorder to understand but the good news is that there are a variety of medications that can be used to effectively treat it.
If you recognize these symptoms, don't hesitate to get help.
Check out this video on living with schizophrenia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48YJMOcykvc&t=178s
Anita Glover, MD is the Mental Health Ambassador for Engage Africa Foundation. She is passionate about creating open, honest dialogue about the myths,stigmas and truths surrounding mental health issues.
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