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Schizophrenia can be a frightening experience on its own. Unfortunately, it’s often misunderstood, in part due to sensational stories in the news and other media. Some people assume that people who experience schizophrenia are dangerous or believe that people who experience schizophrenia should be treated without respect for their rights and dignity. These public perceptions can leave people scared to talk about their experiences and seek help. The truth is that many people learn how to manage schizophrenia with the right tools and supports. It’s time to learn the facts about schizophrenia and see it for what it is: a treatable illness.

On this page:

What is it?

Schizophrenia is a mental illness. It causes people to lose touch with reality and sometimes makes it difficult for them to think and speak in an organized way. (This loss of touch with reality is called psychosis. Psychosis is a part of schizophrenia, but may also be seen on its own. For more on psychosis, see “a look at the terms” below.) It isn’t known exactly what causes schizophrenia, but it’s likely a combination of several factors, such as the way your body works, your family history, your environment, and your life experiences.

Schizophrenia myths and facts

Schizophrenia is not caused by bad parenting, childhood trauma, poverty, street drugs or alcoholSchizophrenia is not contagiousSchizophrenia is very different from dissociative disorder (what used to be called split or multiple personality disorder)Schizophrenia is no one’s faultPeople who experience schizophrenia have a higher risk of suicide. In one study, 20-40% of people with schizophrenia attempted suicide and 5% of people with schizophrenia completed suicide,  so all talk of suicide should be taken seriously


Who does it affect?

Schizophrenia affects about 1% of Canadians—that’s about 40,000 people in British Columbia. While scientists are still working hard to figure out what causes schizophrenia, we do know that it affects:


Could I have schizophrenia?

While schizophrenia looks different from person to person, it always causes changes in your abilities and personality. Because it is so different in each person, you may experience some or all of the symptoms below.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it’s important to talk to your doctor. People who experience schizophrenia often experience symptoms of anxiety and depression, too.


A look at the terms

Below are the definitions of a few words that you might hear associated with schizophrenia.


What can I do about it?

Schizophrenia is treatable. While there is no cure, you can learn how to effectively manage schizophrenia. An important part of recovery is seeking help early. Many people are scared to tell others about their experiences because they worry about what others will think or do. However, early treatment can help you recovery faster and more completely. As schizophrenia usually starts when you’re a teen or young adult, it can interfere in your development and interrupt your goals in school or work. Early treatment can help you get back on track with fewer delays. Of course, it’s also never too late to seek help. There are many different things you can try—talk with your doctor to see what might be right for you.


Where do I go from here?

In addition to talking to your family doctor, check out the resources below for more information on schizophrenia:

Helpful resources available in English only are:

BC Schizophrenia Society
Visit or call 1-888-888-0029 (toll-free in BC) or 604-270-7841 (in Greater Vancouver) for resources and information on schizophrenia and psychosis, including family support groups, respite care, support for children with a parent with a mental illness, and education courses for persons with schizophrenia and their families.

Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division
Visit or call 1-800-555-8222 (toll-free in BC) or 604-688-3234 (in Greater Vancouver) for information and community resources on mental health or any mental illness.

BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information
Visit for our Managing Mental Illnesses series of info sheets, more information, and personal stories about schizophrenia. You’ll also find tips and self-tests to help you take control of your mental health.

Resources available in many languages:
*For each service below, if English is not your first language, say the name of your preferred language in English to be connected to an interpreter. More than 100 languages are available.

HealthLink BC
Call 811 or visit to access free, non-emergency health information for anyone in your family, including mental health information. Through 811, you can also speak to a registered nurse about symptoms you’re worried about, or talk with a pharmacist about medication questions.

Crisis lines aren’t only for people in crisis. You can call for information on local services or if you just need someone to talk to. If you are in distress, call 310-6789 (do not add 604, 778 or 250 before the number) 24 hours a day to connect to a BC crisis line, without a wait or busy signal. The crisis lines linked in through 310-6789 have received advanced training in mental health issues and services by members of the BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information.

© 2014

This info sheet was prepared by CMHA BC Division on behalf of the BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information and HeretoHelp. Funding was provided by BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority. For more resources visit

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