National Schizophrenia Awareness Day on 9 May 2020 shines a light on the challenges faced by hundreds of thousands of people living with a diagnosis of schizophrenia in the UK and millions more worldwide. It sets out the steps we can all take to break down the stigma and discrimination surrounding this much misunderstood illness.
On 9 May 1970, a retired university professor whose son had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, John Pringle, wrote an impassioned plea for action in The Times.
His article generated over 400 responses from families and carers who were determined to improve both the support available to people living with schizophrenia, and the advice available to carers. This led to the creation of the National Schizophrenia Fellowship in 1972, which later transformed into four charities working across the nations of the UK: Hafal, MindWise, Rethink Mental Illness and Support in Mind Scotland.
Fifty years on from John Pringle’s article, important progress has been made in the rights and support available to people living with schizophrenia, notably improvements to secure care and early intervention. But, many of the issues highlighted by John Pringle’s article remain a problem, including access to welfare, housing and employment. These problems are exacerbated by persistent levels of stigma and discrimination. Alarmingly, people living with schizophrenia still die 15-20 years earlier than the general population, largely as a result of preventable physical health conditions.
Marking the anniversary of John Pringle’s article, National Schizophrenia Awareness Day shines a light on the impact of this condition and the change we all still need to fight for.