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What You Need To Know About Schizophrenia

40-year-old Queensland man Joel Cauchi, who was responsible for the Bondi stabbings over the weekend, was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teenager.

Just because someone experiences schizophrenia, it does not mean that they will be violent and a danger to the community.

Professor Patrick McGorry joins The Briefing to tell us what schizophrenia is, and the struggles of managing it:

Cauchi spent more than 20 years trying to navigate life while suffering from his mental illness.

“Schizophrenia affects all areas of a person’s mental functioning,” McGorry says. “Their perception of the world can be very distorted by hallucinations and perceptual disturbances.”

“They can have delusional beliefs – they can be persecuted by known or unknown people when that’s not actually occurring.”

Symptoms can be mild, and most people suffering from schizophrenia are not dangerous. However if the illness is not picked up it can become more entrenched and take over the person’s behaviour.

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“It’s not because they’re bad people or [have] a character problem,” McGorry says. “The illness affects their brain and behaviour in such a way that poses a risk to themselves and others.”

McGorry says the way to reduce community risk is by treating everybody effectively, rather than screening for violence.

“There are a lot of other forms of treatment, not just drug therapies,” McGorry says, including “psychological therapies, social therapies, even practical vocational recovery programs that help them return to study or work when they get better.”

However the underfunded mental health services available in Australia mean that these therapies are scarcely available.

McGorry is a former Australian of the Year and is currently executive director of Origin, a mental health crisis service for young people.

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