A majority of Ontarians are uncomfortable and unfamiliar with the symptoms of schizophrenia, according to a new Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores).
In honour of its 100th anniversary, the Whitby-based specialty mental health hospital sought the opportunity to gauge society’s view of this chronic brain disease, which, according to the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, affects 300,000 Canadians.
The poll revealed that 57 per cent of Ontarians believe people with schizophrenia have multiple personalities, a symptom not associated with the chronic illness.
“It’s hurtful how little people know about schizophrenia,” notes Candice McAlister, a Bowmanville, Ont. resident whose brother has lived with the disease for more than 15 years. “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.”
As McAlister notes, the stigma associated with schizophrenia remains prevalent even as society’s literacy around mental health improves thanks to social awareness campaigns and corporate fundraising efforts. However, when it comes to schizophrenia, 61 per cent of Ontarians admit they wouldn’t date and 55 per cent say they wouldn’t know how to act around someone with schizophrenia.
“This confirms what we already knew,” notes Karim Mamdani, President and CEO of Ontario Shores. “People living with schizophrenia are misunderstood, isolated and ignored.”
In addition to 90,000 outpatient visits annually, Ontario Shores provides inpatient treatment to adolescent, adult, geriatric and forensic mental health populations. Of its 346 inpatients, more than 55 per cent of patients have a diagnosis of schizophrenia at time of discharge.
“If schizophrenia was a chronic physical illness, people living with it would be treated with compassion, understanding and respect,” notes Mamdani. “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.”
Mamdani’s views of how far we need to go in terms understanding this chronic illness are supported by the data compiled by Ipsos. The poll indicates one in three (34 per cent) wouldn’t be willing to hire anyone with schizophrenia while 38 per cent said they wouldn’t rent an apartment or room to someone with the disorder. Moreover, a full one in ten (10 per cent) agreed with the idea that people with schizophrenia should be kept away from society, completely.
“Today, my brother has completed his high school credits, has a car, drives, works part time, and he’s happy,” says McAlister. “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.”
For information on schizophrenia and its impact on families and clinicians visit www.mindvine.ontarioshores.ca.
About Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences:
Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores) is a leader in mental health care, providing a range of specialized assessment and treatment services for people living with complex mental illness. Patients benefit from a recovery-oriented environment of care, built on compassion, inspiration and hope. Ontario Shores engages in research, education and advocacy initiatives to advance the mental health care system.
About the Study
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between August 13th and 14th, 2019, on behalf of Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences. For this survey, a sample of 800 Ontarians were interviewed. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the Ontario population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ±4.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Ontarians been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.
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For more information, please contact:
Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences
905-430-4055 ext. 6583