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Schizophrenia: Reason for Sufferers to Hope

April 09, 2001

I want to thank you for your poignant article discussing the struggle faced by people with schizophrenia in overcoming not only the devastating effects of the illness but the devastating effects of our society's stigma as well ("Still, the Stigma Remains," March 19). As a psychologist, I can attest to the scores of families who walk in the door wondering, "What did I do wrong?" As Linda Marsa alludes, the answer to that question is "nothing."

This is an illness with biological and genetic underpinnings, and, perhaps more important, it is an illness for which tremendous hope for recovery exists when the right treatment is received. I would like to emphasize that one of these treatments is empowering families with the education and skills to best help their ill relative.

MICHAEL DiPAOLO

Los Angeles

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I know the stigma of mental illness well. I believe it is primarily fueled by those with something to gain by keeping people within mental health systems and by making certain the public remains so fearful of them that more and more individuals are siphoned into treatment. I say this because I wore a "mentally ill" label angrily for some 20 years and was given at least 10 different diagnoses in those years.

I finally left the system because of the many abuses I endured within it. Off all their drugs, away from their degrading therapy, I improved. Recovery is a possibility that most are not alerted to consider because of the narrow, stigmatized, punitive and puny attitudes of those within the profession. It is these professionals who lack the insight to comprehend the impact of their own ignorance.

JODY A. HARMON

Corvallis, Ore.

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We are the brother and father of someone who has had this disorder for over 20 years, and took exception to many of the assertions in this article. For example, the author states: "With the right treatment, more than 75% of diagnosed schizophrenics have a complete or at least functional recovery, experts say." This figure seems to be much too optimistic. All one has to do is visit the many state mental institutions, halfway homes, skid rows or jails in any large city.

DAVID SCARPERO

BEN SCARPERO

Inglewood

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