Manchester academic to tell conferences: Child abuse can cause schizophrenia

University of Manchester researcher Paul Hammersley is to tell two international conferences, in London and Madrid on 14 June 2006, that child abuse can cause schizophrenia.

The groundbreaking and highly contentious theory, co-presented by New Zealand clinical psychologist Dr John Read, has been described as "an earthquake" that will radically change the psychiatric profession.

Clinical psychologist and writer Dr Oliver James commented: "The psychiatric establishment is about to experience an earthquake that will shake its intellectual foundations [and] may trigger a landslide."

Mr Hammersley, Programme Director for the COPE (Collaboration of Psychosocial Education) Initiative at the School of Nursing Midwifery and Social Work, said: "We are not returning to the 1960s and making the mistake of blaming families, but professionals have to realize that child abuse was a reality for large numbers of adult sufferers of psychosis."

He added: "We work very closely in collaboration with the Hearing Voices Network, that is with the people who hear voices in their head. The experience of hearing voices is consistently associated with childhood trauma regardless of diagnosis or genetic pedigree."

Dr Read said: "I hope we soon see a more balanced and evidence-based approach to schizophrenia and people using mental health services being asked what has happened to them and being given help instead of stigmatizing labels and mood-altering drugs."

Hammersley and Read argue that two-thirds of people diagnosed as schizophrenic have suffered physical or sexual abuse and thus it is shown to be a major, if not the major, cause of the illness. With a proven connection between the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia, they say, many schizophrenic symptoms are actually caused by trauma.

Their evidence includes 40 studies, which revealed childhood or adulthood sexual or physical abuse in the history of the majo

Contact: Mikaela Sitford
University of Manchester

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