Imagine being homeless, or having a son or daughter who went missing and has not been heard from in years.
Imagine also fighting a healthcare system that is so fragmented that you can't get what you need to recover from a serious medical illness.
More than 2 million Americans and their families face these conditions every day because of an illness called schizophrenia.
It's an illness that is twice as common as HIV/AIDS. It does not discriminate. It strikes people of all races and both genders, and cuts across all social and economic classes.
To better understand the impact of schizophrenia, NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, commissioned Harris Interactive to conduct a survey on attitudes and awareness among the general adult public, as well as among caregivers and individuals living with the illness.
Schizophrenia is a chronic, but manageable, disease. However, much more needs to be done to support treatment and recovery. Two million Americans live with the illness. Only a third receive treatment. With medication, symptoms can often be controlled successfully: About 50% can improve significantly or recover completely over time.
Treatment works--if a person can get it. As many of the findings of the report indicate, getting access to such treatment is a challenge. Individuals living with schizophrenia who participated in the survey in fact represent a special population because 95% are engaged in treatment. Most people living with the illness are not.
The survey results reveal major gaps between what the public believes to be true about schizophrenia, what science tell us, and the real experiences and realities of individuals affected by the illness.
Finally, NAMI's analysis offers recommendations that narrow the knowledge gap by dispelling myths and promoting understanding and the potential for recovery:
We must make a commitment to individual dignity and recognize that with proper treatment, services, and supports, horizons for people living with the illness can be restored. It is time to make recovery real.