This paper focuses on the relationships between schizophrenia and religion, on the basis of a review of literature and the data of an ongoing study about religiousness and spiritual coping conducted among outpatients with chronic schizophrenia. The question of the role of spirituality and religious practices in the process of recovery and reconstruction of the self as experienced by many patients debated. Finally, the implications of spirituality and religious practices for the care of people suffering from schizophrenia was investigated. The analysis of these aspects is drawn not only from literature on this topic, but also from a study about religiousness and spiritual coping we are conducting among outpatients suffering from chronic schizophrenia in the Department of psychiatry of the University Hospital of Geneva
Religion has an impact, not always positive, on the comorbidity of substance abuse and suicidal attempts in schizophrenia. In many patients’ life stories, religion plays a central role in the processes of reconstructing a sense of self and recovery. However, religion may become part of the problem as well as part of the recovery. Some patients are helped by their faith community, uplifted by spiritual activities, comforted and strengthened by their beliefs. Other patients are rejected by their faith community, burdened by spiritual activities, disappointed and demoralized by their beliefs. Religion is relevant for the treatment of people with schizophrenia in that it may help to reduce pathology, to enhance coping and to foster recovery. In the treatment of these patients, it appears useful to tolerate diversity, to respect others beliefs, to ban proselytism and to have a good knowledge of one’s own spiritual identity.
This review has pointed out that religion is not only important for people with schizophrenia, but that it is also relevant to psychiatry. Considering spirituality and religion in the treatment of people suffering from schizophrenia may help to reduce pathology, enhance coping and foster recovery. Not addressing this issue may lead the patient to dismiss spirituality and religion and thus loose potential coping and recovery strategies. Religion and spirituality cannot be reduced to biological mechanisms (functioning of the brain), psychological mechanisms (psychopathology and coping) or social mechanisms (social support, cultural context). Religion cannot be reduced to a therapeutic tool for people suffering from schizophrenia.