Schizophrenia doesn’t make ‘fake interpreter’ dangerous – psychologist

2013-12-15 06:00

Most people with schizophrenia are neither violent nor a danger to others, says Dr Lisa Brown a Johannesburg-based psychologist.

Brown was commenting on media coverage of Thamsanqa Jantjie, the “fake” sign language interpreter who said he had suffered a schizophrenic episode while interpreting at the official memorial service of former president Nelson Mandela on Tuesday.

He also admitted that he was taking medication to keep his mental condition under control.

Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that affects the way a person acts and thinks. Some people who suffer from this condition see or hear things that don’t exist while others believe that there are people who want to harm them.

Some reports have suggested that he could have attacked world leaders like US President Barack Obama and others who were metres away from him.

But, Brown said while she could not comment on Jantjie’s capabilities as a sign language interpreter it was careless and irresponsible of the media to suggest that the man posed a threat to world leaders who shared a stage with him.

She explained: “Most people with schizophrenia are neither violent nor a danger to others.

“It is even better if the person is taking treatment because that means the condition is under control,” Brown said.

Dr Francesca Chewin shared similar sentiments saying: “It’s tragic how the media has been reporting on this man’s mental health.

“Many reports painted schizophrenia as a terrible disease where those who suffer from it are a danger to others. In actual fact people who suffer from schizophrenia and are on medication are generally not a danger to others.

“The fact that Jantjie is in the position he is today sounds like he is stable even though I cannot be sure of that because I am not his doctor,” she said.

However, she noted that Jantjie’s claim that he saw angels during his interpretation could be an indication that he suffers from a different mental illness.

Chewin explained: “Visual hallucination tends not to be common in schizophrenia. He might be suffering from another mental condition as well.”

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