Only about five percent of violence is committed by people with serious mental illness. Those with schizophrenia are about two to four times more likely to commit violence than the average person but proper treatment significantly lowers that risk. Tragically, the severe stigma attached to mental illness delays early diagnosis and treatment.
I recently interviewed Zac Pogliano, a 21-year-old man with schizophrenia. His diagnosis was delayed for one year because he was ashamed of telling anybody he was hearing voices. He told his mother, Laura, "No one wants a crazy person." Untreated, Zac had severe paranoia and delusions. Treated, his symptoms appear under control as he attends an outpatient psychiatric program and works towards independence.
I want you to meet Zac Pogliano and his loving mother and introduce them to everyone you know. They are perfect ambassadors for the fight against the stigma of mental illness. Zac, who has never been violent, told me, "People will judge you, especially after someone gets assaulted by a crazy guy. I could be that crazy guy." Yes, people with schizophrenia can have insight - and all sorts of other wonderful qualities, just like people without serious mental illness.
One way to dispel myths about people with mental illness is to shine a light on them. Here is a link to a segment about Zac and Laura Pogliano that appeared last night on the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley.