As the alleged offenders of the Jinju arson murder and Changwon murder turned out to have schizophrenia, concerns on prejudice against schizophrenia patients have begun to resurface. 10 Decibel, a radio channel run by those who have experienced mental disorders, has been working since 2014 to reduce stigma against schizophrenia and improve the public perception of psychiatric patients.
“Decibel is a unit of sound. An ordinary conversation would mark 30 decibel; trying to hear a 10-decibel sound requires much attention. The name ‘10 Decibel’ urges the public to carefully listen to the voices of people with mental disorders,” explained Kim Mi-hyun, a member of 10 Decibel, in this year’s first broadcast.
10 Decibel is supported by Seoul Mental Health Welfare Center Rights and Interests Support Team, whose constituents all have experience with mental disorders including schizophrenia.
Kim explained she revealed herself to the public because she wanted to show her confident life as a person with a mental disorder.
“If I can represent the psychiatric patients to emphasize our positive aspects and ultimately have the public view us more favorably, I think more of us patients will have the courage to strive further,” Kim said.
A step further into schizophrenia, Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) defined schizophrenia as “a disorder that causes broad clinical abnormality in various aspects of character such as emotion, sensory perception and thoughts.”
According to Korean Statistical Information Service (KOSIS), there were 63,361 patients that were officially undergoing treatment for schizophrenia in 2017. Considering that schizophrenia affects about one percent of the population in any country, psychiatric professionals assume that more than 80 percent of actual patients went unreported.
Medical experts explain that linking schizophrenia violent attitudes is a wrong generalization of schizophrenia patients. Schizophrenia can be caused by various factors ranging from stress to genes, and its patients do not share uniform symptoms as well. Positive symptoms (existing features of a patient) of schizophrenia may include delusions and hallucinations, while negative symptoms result in noticeable lacking in one’s fundamental urges, such as expressing emotion, speaking, or eating. Thus, it can be dangerous to generalize the characteristics of schizophrenia patients.
Furthermore, regardless of which symptoms one might have, it is not true that schizophrenia patients are all prone to violent actions. According to an overview of schizophrenia by KCDC, most schizophrenia patients have a tendency to avoid conflict rather than experiencing violent tendencies.
Statistics by Supreme Prosecutors' Office in 2017 indicate that compared to the 1.2 percent crime rate of non-patients, the crime rate among psychiatric patients was only 0.08 percent.
Some studies report that the heinous crime rate is greater among people with mental illnesses; however, studies concerning meta-analysis of relevant data specifically pointed out that patient groups with schizophrenia and substance abuse showed similar rates of violent behavior with non-schizophrenic substance abuse groups.
Moreover, schizophrenia is curable with constant care and periodic medical assistance. An article from MentalHelp.net, an American addiction center resources website, updated this year that 50 percent of reported patients in the past 10 years have responded they are permanently recovered.
Kim explained that there are many schizophrenia patients who are trying to live a normal life. She has recently made a personal endeavor in various arts while participating in several mental health-related organizations including 10 Decibel, literary self-help group Thunder and Lightning, and Antica, an artist group for the mentally challenged.
“I want to let people know there are people with mental disorders who are trying to live a proud life, carrying out art,” she said.