Hi, there. Thanks for visiting. I'm starting this blog as an advocate for mental and physical health. I'm a freelance writer and also own a home based medical transcription business. I was diagnosed in 1978 with paranoid schizophrenia and started to become acutely ill three years prior to that, unmedicated, frightened, confused, and in trouble with the law. I graduated from university with distinction the year I became ill. I've never regretted learning how to think at university. I struggled with my illness for 35 years and have reached the top of the mountain now, I think, or the other side, where the grass is greener and the path easier. There's hope for all of us, the whole human race, and never think there isn't hope or joy no matter your circumstances. I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences with mental illness in all its forms: depression, brain injury, autism, schizophrenia, bipolar, anxiety disorders, etc. and your positive experiences as well as those lies and half truths society and even therapists would have us believe about ourselves.

We are different folks, and we are beautiful. The whole human race is beautiful. Let's celebrate life.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Causes of Schizophrenia

Only a few months ago I argued with the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta that there was an environmental component to the development of schizophrenia in my case, and probably in all cases. I was told their "medical consultant" told them schizophrenia was decided in the womb. I got the impression they were teaching people and their members that we are "hard wired" to be schizophrenic from before birth and that there was nothing to be done about it. I found some research I sent them to say otherwise, but at the time research was scanty. Now I find it's everywhere. I know there is a genetic component, but I also know it can be triggered by environmental factors, just as a person can be born with a gene for diabetes but it doesn't necessarily develop unless a life style is followed which encourages it. says the following about schizophrenia:

What are causes of schizophrenia? Is it hereditary?

One frequently asked question about schizophrenia is if it is hereditary. As with most other mental disorders, schizophrenia is not directly passed from one generation to another genetically, and there is no single cause for this illness. Rather, it is the result of a complex group of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors. Genetically, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have much in common, in that the two disorders share a number of the same risk genes. However, the fact is that both illnesses also have some genetic factors that are unique.

Environmentally, the risks of developing schizophrenia can even occur before birth. For example, the risk of schizophrenia is increased in individuals whose mother had one of certain infections during pregnancy. Difficult life circumstances during childhood, like the early loss of a parent, parental poverty, bullying, witnessing parental violence; emotional, sexual, or physical abuse; physical or emotional neglect; and insecure attachment have been associated with the development of this illness. Even factors like how well represented an ethnic group is in a neighborhood can be a risk or protective factor for developing schizophrenia. For example, some research indicates that ethnic minorities may be more at risk for developing this disorder if there are fewer members of the ethnic group to which the individual belongs in their neighborhood.

Austin Mardon asked me to co-author an article with him for the Edmonton Journal, one of our daily newspapers, about the prevention of schizophrenia, which led to some very interesting research. I'll put a link to the article on this blog when and if it's published.

I don't think our brains are "hard wired" to the extent we were told, and new research such as that of neuroplasticity gives hope that we can change or heal ourselves. I've mentioned the book The Brain that Changes Itself and there's a video as well on that topic with Dr. Norman Doitch.

I'm reading a couple of excellent books by Dan Ariely called Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality with interesting explanations of human behavior. I'm guessing if I continued to take marketing courses these books would be mentioned. They don't concern mental illness at all, but any insights into human behavior are fascinating to me as we're all part of the human race, aren't we? We're all one.

An educated friend who's a retired university prof expressed concern the other day that those with mental illness pose a threat to society when they are convicted of a violent crime and are allowed back out into society, because if they don't take their medication or don't continue to be "treated" (according to her) they will reoffend. I said people with mental illness are no more likely to reoffend than others, and that the incidence of violence in mental illness is so rare that unfortunately the media jumps all over it when it does happen.

I had that experience recently myself when the volunteer coordinator of a charity for whom I volunteered successfully for three years suddenly sent me an email stating she and someone I didn't know wanted to meet with me right away, after I had sent her a link to my blog. It turns out that she had read very quickly the fact that the legal troubles went back 35 years and when I eventually called her (after many emails on her part and no direct contact) I found out she thought I may have "murdered someone". I was appalled and disappointed. That particular charity has not in the time since contacted me again other than through emails about meeting with me for an unspecified reason, and with an unspecified other person present. I finally found out the other person was the volunteer coordinator's supervisor. I withdrew from the organization and was eventually sent a letter confirming my withdrawal from the organization and signed with the volunteer coordinator's full name, no personal message, and she has not followed up at all since then although I've had to phone her on occasion to follow up regarding my friend, the elderly lady with whom I was matched, who ended up in hospital and requested the organization be notified. I've also followed up a couple of times but have received no response.

Previously this person would tell me "you're the best", etc. and suddenly because of a blog that indicates mental illness and trouble with the law -- they assume the worst. It could have been any kind of trouble with the law, and was.

I understand that any kind of trouble with the law is viewed by the majority of people as heinous.

In any case, it's attitudes like that in public life and private that will sometimes trigger an episode of mental illness in more susceptible individuals.

I might still write about it if I'm given the opportunity to publish articles on mental illness and the public's perception, particularly after the final court date in January when it will hopefully be put to rest.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kenna!

    Interesting to read your blog. Happy, I started a blog of my own, and found out the blogs of people, suffering from the same as I do.

    I believe in the environmental causes of this disease. As long as I can understand, my schizophrenia was due to maltreatment as a child. I wrote about my disease just this morning = )

    All the best to you!