Debunking Schizophrenia Myths

To mark 20 years of COOJ Mental Health Foundation, a free online symposium on ‘Demystifying Schizophrenia’ is being organised on May 22 and 23. NT BUZZ gets you all the details


Schizophrenia is a disorder that affects one million people every year in India. A condition that hinders clear thought, the ability to feel and behave, it is a disorder that calls for widespread awareness among people.

Those who suffer from schizophrenia may see or hear things that don’t exist, speak in ways that are very confusing to the person/people he/she talks to. They have a peculiar belief that someone is trying to harm them, or that they are being watched constantly.

“There were days he seemed absolutely fine, and there were days that were difficult for him and us,” recalls a lady whose husband was diagnosed with schizophrenia and lived with it for close to two decades before passing away.

This man used to have an imaginary friend with whom he would share his meals, and sometimes he would even fear that the imaginary friend would take his life. “Giving him medications was the worst part as he would think I am trying to kill him or that he doesn’t need medications,” says the wife, adding that twenty years ago people thought that her husband was possessed, or that someone had done black magic on him.

“Today, at least a section of society understands mental illness, the various disorders and the need for treatment. But the stigma still remains which will take time to fade,” she says stressing that such symposiums are needed, but it doesn’t reach out to masses as much as it should.

The online symposium which begins today covers a wide range of topics from marriage, employment, addictions, to effective communication, suicide, music therapy, need for COVID vaccination, and genetics in schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

All these topics have been chalked out based on the ground work that COOJ does and are essential to create and disseminate sufficient information in public domain in order to assist, understand and treat those who suffer from schizophrenia.

In his note, founder and director of COOJ, psychiatrist, Peter Castelino emphasises that although research on schizophrenia has come a long way in throwing light on the neurochemistry, genetics, emerging treatments as well as the psycho-social aspects of the disease, there is still a cloud over some pertinent issues including marriage and employment. “Both these needs are natural to human kind and are desired by those with the illness as well. With multiple determinants and several layers of understanding ranging from rights and capacity to opportunity and transparency, these two remain complex issues,” he tells us.

He believes that through debate and discussion there will be hope to learn from the experience and research of learned speakers.

The speakers for the online symposium represent several top mental health institutions like NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences) and Cadabams, Bengaluru; SCARF (Schizophrenia Research Foundation), Chennai; Institute of Psychological Health, Thane; Ashwaas Music Therapy And Wellness Advisory; London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; and Antarman and COOJ in Goa.

The symposium is open to mental health professionals, nurses, students, people living with schizophrenia or any other mental illness, their families and any interested member of the community.

(For details, WhatsApp: 9822562522 or 8007546660)


MAY 22

There will be two sessions ‘Tiny Talks’ divided in two parts.

Part 1 | 4:30 p.m.

1)            Is schizophrenia


                Vanteemar Sreeraj, NIMHANS, Bengaluru

2)            Suicide and


                Peter Castelino, COOJ, Goa

3)            Addictions and mental illness

                Abhijit Nadkarni, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Part 2 | 6 p.m.

1)            Effective


                Janette Dias,

psychologist, Goa

2)            COVID- 19 vaccinations for people with schizophrenia: is it needed?

                Satish Suhas, NIMHANS, Bengaluru

3) Music therapy in


                Margaret Lobo, music therapist, Ashwaas

ZOOM MEETING ID: 98713390285

PASSCODE: 550956

MAY 23

Debate |10:30 a.m.

‘People with mental illness: to marry or not to marry’

Moderator: Ravindra Agrawal, Antarman, Goa

Team 1: Centre for Mental Health Law & Policy

Soumitra Pathare, director Arjun Kapoor, lawyer and psychologist

Team 2: Toastmasters, Goa

Jervis Pereira, founder, Digital Kwillis Speaking Studio

Runa Menezes, founder, Speaking Studio

Panel discussion | 12 noon

‘Can people with mental

illness be employed?’

Moderator: Anuradha Sovani, head, Department of Psychology, SNDT, Mumbai


Shubha Thate, founder trustee, IPH, Mumbai

R Mangala, psychiatrist, SCARF, Chennai

Sandesh Cadabam, CEO, Cadabams Group

Asmita Mokashi, coordinator, Tridal Workshop

ZOOM MEETING ID: 94982431322

PASSCODE: 853653