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Updated 9:00 AM October 13, 2004




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Letters to the Editor

You should know that the use of the word schizophrenic to describe the weather in your caption under the photo on the front page (Oct. 4) is extremely offensive for the following reasons: 1) it is perpetuating stigma about a very serious mental disorder and sets us back decades if not centuries; 2) to use the term schizophrenic in that manner implies "split personality," which is a very inaccurate way to describe this disorder of perception, thinking and emotion that affects 1.2 percent of the population worldwide; 3) on this campus there are people who have witnessed schizophrenia in their families, or may themselves be struggling with trying to attend school while recovering from the acute effects of the illness and this is devastating to see in print; and 4) there are many researchers, like myself, whose work is based on finding ways to promote recovery and to get people back to school and to work and encourage employers, teachers and all forms of media to be sensitive with the words they use and the environment they are creating by using them.

Thank you for providing a means to air these views.

The caption on the front page of the Record of Oct. 4, 2004, referred to the changeable fall weather as "schizophrenic." Schizophrenia has nothing to do with rapidly changing or quixotic behavior or mood swings. Further, schizophrenia has nothing to do with the idea of "split personality" where one can encounter very different and contradictory behavior or interactions. Schizophrenia is most often a serious and chronic medical-psychiatric condition that is rooted in abnormal cognitive and perceptual processes.

At an institution of higher learning, we need to be careful that we do not perpetuate stereotypic but false ideas, particularly ideas that do not enlighten and may continue to promote stigma. Sincerely,

The University Record rarely responds to letters to the editor, but we received a number of comments similar to those you read here and wanted to express our regret at the offense our photo caption has caused. It was not our intention to cause anyone discomfort. The points made by the authors regarding the seriousness of the illness, our mistaken representation of schizophrenia as something with two personalities, and our casual use of the term are well taken.

The University Record welcomes letters from members of the University community. Those on topics of broad University interest will be given preference for publication. Letters should be no more than 500 words and must be signed. The editorial staff reserves the right to reject any letter and to edit and/or condense letters for publication. The staff also reserves the right to limit the number of letters submitted by the same individual. Letters may appear in small type. Organizations submitting material must include the name and address of an appropriate officer. Letters must be received by noon Wednesday to receive consideration for publication in the next issue.

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