Dangerous schizophrenics, eh? Can’t live with ‘em, can’t lock ‘em up and throw away the key, at least not until they’ve actually done something. It’s political correctness gone, quite literally, mad.
Yesterday evening I watched an ITV News report on Nicola Edgington, official, card-carrying DANGEROUS SCHIZOPHRENIC. Except apparently she has “borderline personality disorder” instead. I don’t know the precise distinctions – beyond the fact that one seems to make you more criminally culpable than the other – but I do know that “borderline personality disorder sufferer” doesn’t sound as good as “DANGEROUS SCHIZOPHRENIC”. Hence the report was at pains to highlight the link between people being DANGEROUS and SCHIZOPHRENIC. It isn’t much of a link, but still, it’s one that’s always worth exaggerating when you’re aiming to be sensationalist, ablist and utterly shameless in your reporting.
To be fair, in an emergency phone call made shortly before she killed for the second time, Edgington described herself as a “dangerous schizophrenic” who was at risk of harming others. So, there you go. Let’s all take her word for it. Picking up on that one phrase, let’s not focus on the terrible failings of one particular case but cast the net wide, interviewing others about all the horrible murders committed by “psychiatric patients”. Because mentally ill people are dangerous, aren’t they? Or at least, when they’re not dangerous, they’re potentially embarrassing and difficult to be around. That’s why it’s easier to just make up stuff about them.
I worry a lot about schizophrenia. I worry about the imprecision of diagnoses. I worry about the extreme side-effects of medication. I worry about the loneliness and fear schizophrenics suffer. One thing I don’t, however, worry about is whether a schizophrenia sufferer is likely to kill me. Statistically speaking, my partner’s more likely to do that, but it’s ridiculous to use statistics in that way. After all, if we rely on statistics alone, I’m more likely to kill me than anyone else is. Perhaps it’s a false sense of security, but I feel reasonably safe with me.
Over twenty years ago someone close to me was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Back then Care In The Community seemed to be in the news constantly. It was a policy everyone could attack: right wingers because they didn’t want DANGEROUS SCHIZOPHRENICS in the community, lefties because they didn’t want DANGEROUS SCHIZOPHRENICS in the community, either, but could pretend they were merely objecting to cuts and a lack of adequate support networks. I’m almost certainly being unfair – after all, there is still a dire lack of support networks – but that was how it felt to me. I felt less afraid of the illness, devastating though the consequences were and continue to be, than I did of other people’s prejudice. Two decades later, I’m more aware than ever of how isolating a schizophrenia diagnosis can be. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not all out to get you, and the vulnerability of those suffering from severe mental illness makes them an easy target.
People continue to write and speak of schizophrenia sufferers as though they are less than human. And now a tragic case has provided them with yet more ammunition to throw at people who have to live in so much fear to begin with. In truth, we have little to fear, but a lot to be angry about.