We have joined other organisations around the world in deciding to stop using an unscientific and highly stigmatising label which, because of its connotations of an irreversible illness (‘brain disease’), has damaged millions of people for a century
John Read, ISPS, March 2012
This month I feel overwhelmingly proud to be a member of ISPS UK’s executive committee. Acknowledging the many major problems with the diagnosis of schizophrenia, members of ISPS voted by an overwhelming majority to remove schizophrenia from it’s name.
International Society for the Psychological Treaments of the Schizophrenias and Other Psychoses
is now known as
International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis
To those of you who have never heard of ISPS, this may not sound particularly exciting. For me, having both been diagnosed with schizophrenia and working within a system that still acts as if it exists – it’s momentous. ISPS is only a small organisation, but it links up networks all over the world. Its membership is diverse, welcoming people with lived experience, carers, psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists, nurses, support workers, social workers, academics and anyone else who is interested in exploring psychological approaches to ‘psychosis’.
ISPS isn’t anti-psychiatry, and – in my opinion at least – it’s not on the fringes. ISPS is a mainstream organisation whose members are working in the real world supporting people who are struggling with extreme states. As a collective, they understand and recognise the value of psychological approaches to understanding psychosis – but each member will have their own unique perspective on this. There’s no dogma here – we recognise that there is no final word on the best approach to use (members come from different theoretical and practical backgrounds). The umbrella os psychological and social approaches is a very large one, and there’s room for all.
For me, the unthinking acceptance of ‘schizophrenia’ as a useful diagnosis (or, worse still, a valid illness) is extremely damaging. The diagnosis of schizophrenia is only 100 years old, yet within many mental health training courses it is taught as if it exists without question. This simply isn’t the case – the diagnosis of schizophrenia can be picked apart on so many levels. If you’d like to find out more about this, please take a look at the new ‘Inquiry into the ‘Schizophrenia’ Label.
On a personal level, as you’ll see elsewhere in this site, my diagnosis of schizophrenia (and later, schizoaffective disorder) effectively blocked my recovery for many years. There are few diagnoses that have schizophrenia’s power to strip the meaning from someone’s experience, both obscuring traumatic life experiences and rendering them irrelevant. The diagnosis of schizophrenia stopped people from trying to understand the sense in my psychosis – and, most importantly, stopped me from imagining that the sense existed.
Ditching the schizophrenia label has been an important step in my own journey to reclaim my sense of self and my life story. I feel happy to be part of an organisation that is walking alongside me in this journey.
YAY for ISPS!
Just to be clear, although I don’t believe schizophrenia exists as an illness entity, I do believe that the overwhelming experiences that can lead people to be labelled with schizophrenia do exist. Some of these experiences can be extremely distressing and, when people are overwhelmed, they often need help to find a way through it. I merely believe that the label of schizophrenia isn’t necessary to provide people with the help and support that they need.