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No One Cares About Crazy People

The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America

By Ron Powers
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No One Cares About Crazy People by Ron Powers

No One Cares About Crazy People (2017) takes a detailed look at the history of mental-health care in America. These blinks explore the current state of psychiatric care, how it came to be the way it is and how the changing trajectory of treatment has affected both patients and society.

Key idea 1 of 6

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder caused by genetic and environmental factors, and it can be devastating.

Schizophrenia can be an incredibly debilitating mental illness. It radically alters the brain, and may diminish a person’s ability to function within society. Certain genes that may contribute to the onset of the disorder exist in the brains of people with schizophrenia from birth, but symptoms usually don’t present until adolescence, when the brain begins pruning cells.

This pruning process, which tends to occur during a person’s late teens and early twenties, destroys particular cortical synapses, the brain structures that facilitate communication between neighboring cells. Destroying these synapses is the brain’s way of cleaning house and making space for new synapses crucial to adult life.

But there’s a problem. When the old synapses are pruned, the genes involved in schizophrenia come to life, filling in the gaps. If these genes are then activated – by stressful environmental conditions, for instance, or marijuana abuse – the affected person enters what’s known as the prodromal phase of schizophrenia. During this phase, no major behavioral differences are necessarily discernible. However, this phase often leads to a psychotic breakdown, which may manifest in a number of ways, including paranoid delusions or delusions of grandeur. This often grabs the attention of friends and family, making them, and the person affected, painfully aware of the disorder’s existence.

That all being said, the onset of schizophrenia is always the result of external triggers. Stress is one of the most common, so it’s no coincidence that schizophrenia often dawns as a young mind begins facing serious stress for the first time, whether it be related to school, socializing or a first heartbreak. Any and all of these can jumpstart the prodromal phase of the disorder.

Another major external trigger is cannabis use, which can predispose a person to all manner of psychotic disorders – including schizophrenia – if the genes for those disorders are present. A recent article published in the Wall Street Journal cited research by many prestigious medical journals, like the Lancet, which confirmed the link between cannabis use and psychosis.

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