5 August 2002
A report commissioned by SANE Australia, the national charity helping people affected by mental illness, has highlighted the enormous costs to the community of schizophrenia and associated suicides.
The report, prepared by Access Economics for SANE, was released today and warns that without dedicated investment in cost-effective interventions, such as psychosocial rehabilitation programmes, suicide prevention strategies and carer education and training, direct health costs associated with schizophrenia will top $1 billion in the coming decade.
The human cost of this is that many people with schizophrenia will still be living on the edge of Australian society, with only limited opportunities to be healthy and participating members of the community.
The report shows that people with schizophrenia are 12 times more likely to die by suicide than the general population.
SANE Australia Executive Director Barbara Hocking said: ‘It is disturbing to discover that 84 per cent of Australians with schizophrenia who died last year took their own lives.’
Sixty per cent of males with schizophrenia will attempt suicide at some time in their lives. Artist Simon Champ who has been living with schizophrenia for more than 20 years, said: ‘My belief is that that would change if society had more tolerance to people with schizophrenia, more acceptance and there were better services.’
Simon recalled his own struggle with schizophrenia and how his life has improved with better medication. However, he stressed: ‘As good as my life is with schizophrenia I still have a disability and so I can’t work full time. It’s a source of embarrassment to me sometimes, but I share that with many other people with schizophrenia. Having said that . . . we have to realise that if there were more opportunities for people and less stigma there would be improvement in employment rates.’
The real financial costs of the illness in Australia in 2001 were nearly $50,000 on average for each of the 37,000 Australians diagnosed with the illness. More than a third of this cost is borne by people with schizophrenia and their carers.
Simon pointed out: ‘It’s actually very painful to look at the economic costs because it reminds you of what you’ve missed out on in your life — the lost earnings, the lost security, the lost housing — things like that that so many Australians take for granted.
'People with schizophrenia are no different. They have the right to a good quality of life and this report is saying that we need to spend more money on people with schizophrenia and their care as an investment that will actually save money.’
Schizophrenia is a type of psychosis — psychosis is characterised by confused thinking, not being able to tell what’s real and what isn’t, having delusions and hallucinations, whether they be visions, hearing disembodied voices, or smelling or tasting things that aren’t there.
Schizophrenia is the most common psychosis and people with schizophrenia represent more than half of all people with psychosis.
Symptoms of schizophrenia can be ‘positive’ — including delusions, hallucinations, disorganised thinking and agitation — or they can be ‘negative’ symptoms — including lack of drive or initiative, social withdrawal, apathy and emotional unresponsiveness.
Last Reviewed: 06 August 2002