Taiwan’s medical community is calling for a name change for schizophrenia (精神分裂症), which is derived from the Greek for “split mind,” in an effort to reduce the stigma attached to the disease and increase patients’ willingness to seek help.
They are proposing a name change to “cognitive-perception dysfunction (思覺失調症),” which suggests disorders of thoughts or consciousness and was inspired by the name “early psychosis,” which was adopted by Hong Kong in 2001.
“We propose the name change for the same reason that the government changed the Chinese name for dementia from ‘old-age feeble-mindedness’ (老人痴呆症) to ‘old-age intellectual losses’ (老人失智症) and replaced the term ‘mental retardation’ (低能) with ‘intellectual disability’ (智能不足),” Taiwanese Society of Psychiatry director-general Frank Chou (周煌智) told a press conference in Greater Tai
Chou said the term “cognitive-perception dysfunction” would not only make the symptoms of the disorder — such as delusions and hallucinations more comprehensible to people, but could also help remove common misconceptions and reduce discrimination.
“This would help alleviate patients’ fear of seeking medical assistance and letting others know about their condition,” Chou said.
Chou said a number of neighboring countries have taken the same step, with Japan and South Korea renaming the disorder: “integration disorder” and “attunement disorder” respectively.
The name change in Japan in 2002 has led to a noticeable increase in people’s willingness to receive treatments and the level of support they receive from their families, which prompted several Taiwanese mental-health experts, including National Taiwan University Hospital psychiatrist Hwu Hai-gwo (胡海國), to call for a similar change, Chou said.
“Although we have a numerical coding system to categorize diseases listed on disability certificates that are issued to people with mental disorders, we think that does not go far enough,” Chou said.
“We plan to submit reports to the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the National Health Insurance Administration urging them to officially adopt our proposed name for the disease and consign the current one to history,” Chou added.
Taiwan Alliance for the Mentally Ill director-general Huang Min-wei (黃敏偉) said about 70 percent of people with mental disorders believe treatment could improve their condition, yet they often have to combat both the disease and the stigma attached to it.
According to a recent survey conducted by the alliance among 188 people who have recovered from mental illness, more than 60 percent said that they were reluctant to tell their family and friends about their condition due to fears of being discriminated against at work and in their personal lives.
Nevertheless, relevant statistics compiled by the administration in 2012 showed that the number of people diagnosed with mental disorders has climbed to nearly 120,000, from 75,000 over the past decade, which indicates a rising public awareness of mental diseases and an increased inclination among people to seek medical care, the alliance said.
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