Boffey, Philip M. "Schizophrenia Puzzle: Toll Rises Amid Hope," New York Times, 16 March


Boffey, Philip M. "Schizophrenia Puzzle: Toll Rises Amid Hope," New York Times, 16 March
1986, pp. 1, 32.

Here is the lead article, page 1, column 1, in this Sunday's Times. The article reports on the new
attack on dreaded schizophrenia. This new approach, it is suggested here, sees schizophrenia as a
physical illness, perhaps caused by a virus. Several researchers have found different brain
structures for the schizophrenic and for normal subjects. There may be biochemical bases for
madness. The biomedical community, headed by NIMH, will assume its responsibilities and
attack this disease straight away. It will no longer just treat those with the mildest forms of the

This is the first of four articles dealing with mental illness. Most of the substance of this article it
seems to stem from the recent work of NIMH on the epidemiology of mental illness. There is
some effort to recall the old threats of psychiatry: "It has never been easy to determine who is
schizophrenic: all the homeless who wander the streets are by no means suffering from the
disorder. But the NIMH studies were based on one of the most scientifically precise..."(p. 32)
Note the disclaimer and the iteration that this is scientific.

"The old notion that families were to blame for causing the disease has given way to the notion
that biological factors play a major causative role." Then, a few paragraphs later, "Schizophrenia
typically strikes men in their late teens or 20s and women perhaps five years later... For reasons
that are unclear, but could be related to hormones, the course of the disease is often less severe in
women." (p. 32) Then, "Technologies that enable scientists to probe deeper than ever into the
structure and functioning of the brain have given an impetus to the search for biochemical and
physiological abnormalities." (p. 32) And, "Nobody knows what role these biological factors
play in causing schizophrenia, and no common biological factor has yet been found. But the rapid
rush of new findings is creating optimism that a biological explanation will eventually be
developed." (p. 32)

Clearly, the NIMH is back on the old track of selling mental illness. It apparently feels the
pendulum is swinging back its way.