Why the Inquiry?
We are aware of the increasing unease, even among psychiatrists, about the use ‘schizophrenia’ or ‘psychosis’ to describe complex problems of living. More importantly, when these are used as labels attached to people, they can cause serious problems through increasing stigma and undermining the humanity of people given these labels. Indeed, some people seem to suffer from the labels more than they do from other problems of living. Black people in Britain seem to suffer disproportionately in this way.
In December 2011 we noted the launch of a project called ‘Schizophrenia Commission’ and saw how it was set up without much discussion with service user/survivor organisations and organisations working with black and minority ethnic communities. It seemed to be dominated by a unit that researches ‘psychosis’ and structured in a narrow medical framework that accepts diagnoses as valid ways of labelling people. We felt that the time was right to launch an inquiry into the ‘schizophrenia’ label. And, when we found that such an inquiry was strongly supported by many organisations and individuals, and that many of them were actually willing to do so publicly by allowing us to include their names on our website, we decided to go ahead, raising funds for our expenses as we went along.
Current practice in the UK
The use of the label ‘schizophrenia’ carries on in psychiatric research, as well as in clinical practice and guidelines, such as those issued by NICE. It thus continues to have a great deal of influence. In view of the problems with the label, psychiatrists have come under pressure to abandon its use as a diagnosis, with the result that ‘psychosis’ is being used more generally to label the people who would otherwise be labelled with ‘schizophrenia’. Hence the Inquiry will include the label ‘psychosis’ as implying ‘schizophrenia’.