Media Release 16 May 2018

Media Release 16 May 2018. Definition of schizophrenia finally corrected in the dictionary

The definition of schizophrenia finally corrected in the dictionary.

One Door Mental Health gets damaging use of word changed ahead of Schizophrenia Awareness Week

You’ve probably been using the adjective, schizophrenic incorrectly your whole life. Up until now, dictionaries have recorded emotionally damaging and misleading colloquial use of the powerful word, however, mental health advocate’s fight to have it amended has changed that. 

In its correct clinical definition, schizophrenia refers to a serious psychiatric illness which may include disturbances in thought, perception, behaviour and functioning in everyday life. 1 in 100 Australians live with the illness, a percentage commonly seen throughout the world. 

Figurative use of the term schizophrenia and schizophrenic to mean multiple personalities or many and/or contrary points of view, is an incorrect representation of the illness and an emotionally damaging use of the word for those who live with the illness, their families and carers as it further stigmatises the disease.

Dr Ellen Marks, General Manager of Advocacy and Inclusion, One Door Mental Health, ahead of Schizophrenia Awareness Week 20 – 27 May 2018, said what may be a small change for some, is a powerful contributor of healing for many. 

“What many people don’t know is that dictionaries record both the correct use and the figurative (often incorrect) use of language. Many dictionaries therefore include incorrect colloquial definitions of 'schizophrenic'.

“We know firsthand how damaging it is for people living with the illness to hear people in media, their communities and families misuse the word schizophrenic, for it implies a completely different set of experiences to one living with the illness. 

“We set ourselves a challenge to change how people use the words, starting with the dictionary definition,” said Dr Marks.

In response to One Door’s work, the Macquarie Dictionary, American Heritage Dictionary and Wiktionary have included a “usage note” which highlights that the colloquial uses of ‘schizophrenic’ raises concerns for those who are trying to increase community knowledge of the medical condition of schizophrenia. 

“Language can aid healing. An enormous amount of attention is given to health literacy as a means of improving people’s health outcomes. The positive effects of engaging with language are obvious and well-known. On the other hand, the devastatingly stigmatising effects of incorrect language can also prevent healing,” continued Dr Marks.

One Door’s advocacy work has drawn attention to the issue. While best case scenario would be to change the definitions completely, the addition of a “usage note” is a good start. Changing the definition requires that the way the population uses the word changes, which One Door will continue to pursue, but will take time.

Mr Rob Ramjan AM, CEO, One Door Mental Health, said this change has long been desired by the mental health community. 

“One Door are leading the charge to take big steps towards a future where long-term misuse of language around schizophrenia is identified and corrected.

“The upcoming 33rd annual Schizophrenia Awareness Week, will provide a powerful platform to continue our advocacy campaign and hopefully see “usage notes” added to more dictionaries,” concluded Mr Ramjan. 
Schizophrenia Awareness Week (SAW), 20-27 May 2018 provides an opportunity to raise community awareness of schizophrenia and other mental illnesses through information displays, events, a media campaign and social media outreach.

Join in the conversation using the hashtags #SAW2018 and tagging @OneDoorMH

For more information

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For further information or to organise an interview with One Door Chief Executive Officer Rob Ramjan, contact:

Jamie-Lee Radburn
Communications & Business Manager
0421 400 879

Note for Editors: Through One Door Mental Health, people living with mental illness and their families can find an inclusive community, innovative services and strong advocacy. For more than 30 years One Door has designed and delivered expert mental health programs now available through the NDIS. Creating a world in which people with a mental illness are valued and treated as equals is at the heart of everything we do.

Media Release | Advocacy | Schizophrenia | Stigma


Rob Ramjan - CEO, One Door Mental Health

Dr-Ellen-Marks-4028 600x400

Dr Ellen Marks - General Manager Advocay and Inclusion