by Matthew Ahmon

The word “schizophrenia” carries lots of negative connotations and stigma – erasing those associations are one of the principal goals of Michelle’s company. In Canada, however, some companies are removing the word from their names in order to make it easier to raise funds and support for schizophrenia research and treatment. One example is the formerly Schizophrenia Society of Ontario, which changed its name in 2020 to “Institute for Advancements in Mental Health”, because some people with schizophrenia were afraid of calling in and receiving treatment, because they would receive mail with a return address of “Schizophrenia Society”. The Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia is changing its name for a different reason: corporate sponsors believe that schizophrenia is not “attractive enough” for an investment, and that the name should reflect more common, well-known disorders such as depression and anxiety. The article notes that removing “schizophrenia” from names reinforces the stigma surrounding the word and that openness and honesty are important for people to feel recognized and included.

Underlying these issues, however, is the stigmatization by the general public. The reason people are afraid to call in and have their name associated with an organization that contains the word “schizophrenia” is precisely because of the fear of society’s rejection. Corporations, ostensibly trying to be more inclusive, shy away from the “extreme” mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, most likely not just because of their own stigma, but also because of the prejudices of stockholders. It is easy to blame the censorship of the word “schizophrenia” on the complicity and laziness of the corporations, but it is important to remember that each of us, as ordinary citizens, has a personal responsibility and stake in this game. Despite the twenty-first century’s self-proclaimed modernity and progressivism, mental illnesses such as schizophrenia are extraordinarily stigmatized, only further perpetuating the stereotypes and pushing schizophrenia into the deepest, darkest recesses of the closet of socially unacceptable topics. Ultimately, our systems are fueled by the general population, and so mental health activism has to occur on the ground level. It’s as simple as sharing on social media platforms.