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National Council webcast dispels schizophrenia, bipolar myths

October 7, 2010
by Press Release
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Washington, DC — In recognition of Mental Illness Awareness Week Oct. 3-9, the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare (National Council) is offering a free webcast, “Understanding Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder” on Oct. 7, 2:00-3:00 PM EDT.

Based on the content of an evidence-based public education program, Mental Health First Aid USA, the webcast describes the risk factors, signs and symptoms of disorders in which psychosis may occur, the importance of early intervention, and what people can do to help someone in crisis.

More than 5.7 million Americans suffer from bipolar disorder and 2.4 million Americans suffer from schizophrenia in a year.

The webcast also hopes to dispel common myths about schizophrenia, the most common disorder in which psychosis occurs. Contrary to common belief, schizophrenia does not mean “split personality.” The term comes from the Greek word for “fractured mind” and refers to changes in mental function where thoughts and perceptions become disordered.

The major symptoms of schizophrenia include:

• Delusions: False beliefs of persecution, guilt, having a special mission, or being under outside control
• Hallucinations: Most commonly involve hearing voices, but can also involve seeing, feeling, tasting or smelling things
• Thinking problems: Difficulties in concentration, memory and ability to plan.
• Loss of drive: Lack of motivation even for self-care
• Blunted emotions: The person seems oblivious to things around them and often reacts inappropriately
• Social withdrawal: The person may withdraw from contact with others, even family and close friends

“People with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder may be members of our families, our communities, or our workplaces, but ignorance and fear often keep us from understanding and helping them,” says Linda Rosenberg, the National Council’s president and CEO. “We need to see the person, not the illness.”

Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood swings. People can experience periods of depression, periods of mania and long periods of normal mood in between.

Symptoms of depression include:

• Feelings of sadness and crying for no apparent reason
• Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
• Reduced sex drive
• Insomnia or excessive sleeping
• Indecisiveness, distractibility and decreased concentration
• Fatigue, tiredness and loss of energy
• Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide
• Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

Symptoms of mania include:

• Increased energy and overactivity
• Elevated mood
• Sleep less than usual
• Irritability
• Rapid thinking and speech
• Lack of inhibitions, such as spending money extravagantly or being sexually active
• Grandiose delusions of being superhuman or especially talented
• Lack of insight, including believing the manic delusions are real

Free registration for the webcast at