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500 attending 25th NZ schizophrenia conference

500 attending 25th anniversary NZ schizophrenia conference

Research has found people with schizophrenia and other severe mental illness suffer fewer relapses (20 percent less) when family help in care and treatment, Schizophrenia Fellowship NZ chief executive Barbara Halliday said today.

Delegates will learn about new research trends in mental health during the 25th anniversary conference of Schizophrenia Fellowship NZ at the Christchurch Convention Centre on September 13 and 14.

Experts from the United States, England, Australia and New Zealand will talk to the conference about mental health issues.

Mrs Halliday said perceptions have been changing in the 26 years since the fellowship’s inception.

``There was a long era of blame and shame on families but over the years that has been decreasing. People now know schizophrenia is a brain disease. It is a real scientific and biological entity as are diabetes; multiple sclerosis and cancer are biological entities.”

People who experience mental illness can now receive atypical anti-psychotic medications which have helped them to achieve a better quality of life.

One of the conference speakers Robert Miller will talk about some of the research being done in universities throughout New Zealand.

``Research on schizophrenia in New Zealand is still a delicate plant,’’ Mr Miller said.

``There are still few full-time researchers in this area, and major funding from national bodies is hard to obtain. Sadly, some of the researchers who obtained their first research funding from SF awards are now working overseas.’’

Mr Miller will talk to up to 500 delegates about the history and background of the NZ Schizophrenia Research Group.

A keynote speaker at the conference this weekend will be renowned Professor Charles Rapp of the United States, father of the ‘Strengths Model’, who will talk about concentrating on people’s strengths rather than their illness.

The Schizophrenia Fellowship was formed 26 years ago in Christchurch and now has 19 branches and 2 sub-groups throughout New Zealand. Health Minister Annette King will be guest speaker at the conference dinner on Saturday night, September 13.

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