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Health advocates say schizophrenia should be reclassified as a brain disease

Health advocates say schizophrenia should be reclassified as a brain disease

Mental health advocates are lobbying Congress to help them get schizophrenia classified as a brain disease like Parkinson’s or Alzheimers, instead of as a mental illness, a move that could reduce stigma and lead to more dollars for a cure. Federal health officials, scientists and doctors say conditions that cause psychosis, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, are poorly understood and, in the public mind, often associated with violent behavior. Patients are more likely to be homeless, incarcerated, commit suicide and die younger than those with any other neurological diseases.

“Look at the disconnect in the way these patients are treated. It’s unconscionable,” said Raymond Cho, professor of psychiatry research at Baylor College of Medicine and chairman of the Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America. His group is among those focusing on appropriators in Congress — particularly those who have championed mental health in the past — to include schizophrenia in a new CDC program that aims to collect data on the prevalence and risk factors of neurological conditions in the U.S. population. The findings could eventually be used to push the World Health Organization to reclassify the disorder — a complicated process that may take years. The...

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