The program was established in the Detroit area in 1985. The founder was Joanne Verbanic, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1970. Shortly before forming SA, Verbanic had publicly disclosed her diagnosis and had discussed her illness on national television programs in an effort to challenge the stigma associated with schizophrenia by educating the public. She has continued to be active as a spokesperson for persons with schizophrenia and other mental illness and was a 2006 recipient of a Lilly Reintegration Award in recognition of her lifetime contributions to the mental health community.
Technical support for Schizophrenics Anonymous had been provided by the National Schizophrenia Foundation (NSF) until 2007 when NSF ceased doing business. In response to the loss of a national organization supporting people with schizophrenia and related disorders and Schizophrenics Anonymous, a group of consumers, family members, and mental health providers came together to form a national 501(3)c not-for-profit organization, Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA).
SARDAA promotes recovery for persons with schizophrenia and related disorders and envisions a future in which every person with a schizophrenia-related disorder will have the opportunity to recover and live a life free from stigma and discrimination. SARDAA provides technical support for Schizophrenics Anonymous and its leadership. They provide an online directory of SA groups, sponsor two weekly SA conference calls, and at their annual conference, train individuals and groups who have or would like to start an SA group.
Although some SA groups are run by mental health professionals, research has suggested that peer-led SA groups are more sustainable and long-lasting. Some groups are privately held in psychiatric hospitals or jails and are not open to the public.
The SA program is based on a twelve-step model, but includes just six steps. The organization describes the program's purpose as helping participants to learn about schizophrenia, "restore dignity and sense of purpose," obtain "fellowship, positive support, and companionship," improve their attitudes about their lives and their illnesses, and take "positive steps towards recovery."
Joanne Verbanic wrote the original "Schizophrenics Anonymous" book, better known as "The Blue Book,"which describes the six steps to recovery. The steps require members to admit they need help, take responsibility for their choices and consequences, believe they have the inner strength to help themselves and others, forgive themselves and others, understand that false beliefs contribute to their problems and change those beliefs, and decide to turn their lives over to a higher power.
Self-help groups are more available to people who live independently, and so researchers at Michigan State University did research to determine if SA would be successful in group homes. The results were very positive: the groups had high attendance and participation, and were well liked. However, staff members disempowered the group members by controlling who could lead and who could attend the meetings, and how the meetings should be run. The programs fell apart. The same obstacle occurred in SA groups started in prisons and monitored by employees.
- What Is Schizophrenics Anonymous?, Schizophrenics Anonymous website
- Working Their Way Back, by James Willwerth, Time, Nov. 14, 1999
- Linda Whitten and Bruce Black (2005). "Schizophrenics Anonymous" (PPT, slide 4). NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) website. Retrieved 2008-02-10.
Joanne Verbanic / Founder of Schizophrenics Anonymous / 1970 diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia / 1985 with Mental Health Association in Michigan Founded Schizophrenics Anonymous / Motivated to erase stigma / “The stigma is harder to deal with than the illness itself.” / Spokesperson at Mental Health conferences, universities, schools, clubs, TV, radio in an effort to educate the public.
- Schizophrenics Find Stigma Is Even Worse Than the Disease, HealthyPlace.com, September 27, 2003
- Eli Lilly and Company Announces 2006 Lilly Reintegration Awards Recipients, Eli Lilly press release, October 10, 2006
- Recovery World
- "Linda Whitten Stalters." Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association. 2008
- Helping Mutual Help: Managing the Risks of Professional Partnerships. D.A. Salem, et al. Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan School of Public Health. 2010
- Linda Whitten and Bruce Black (2005). "Schizophrenics Anonymous" (PPT, slide 11). NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) website. Retrieved 2008-02-10.
Initially based on 12 Steps of AA / Self-help only—not advocacy or group therapy
- Linda Whitten and Bruce Black (2005). "Schizophrenics Anonymous" (PPT, slides 25-31). NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) website. Retrieved 2008-02-10.
- Schizophrenics Anonymous, by Joanne Verbanic
- The initiation of mutual-help groups within residential treatment settings. Salem DA, Gant L, Campbell R. Community Ment Health J. 1998 Aug;34(4):419-29.