Have you wondered if this could be what’s wrong with your son or daughter, or have they already been diagnosed? Maybe you weren’t surprised, but either way it was probably devastating. You may have been on this precarious, dark path for a while. Some days you feel okay and other days you’re not. You struggle to see the way forward.
A friend of mine, whose daughter struggles with schizophrenia, says she often feels way out of her comfort zone. Sometimes she feels like she’s living in a nightmare.
Is that you? Is your life a little like trying to cross a precarious rope bridge? You have no choice – you have to keep going, even though you’re scared to death. I hope the following information from NAMI (The National Alliance on Mental Illness – nami.org) will be helpful on your journey.
Schizophrenia is often misunderstood, yet is a highly treatable mental illness (or brain disorder). This mental illness affects more than two million American adults every year. It interferes with the ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others.
Many are shunned because this illness causes unusual and unpredictable behavior. It’s not caused by bad parenting or personal weakness. It can affect anyone at any age, but typically emerges during the teens and twenties to slightly more men than women.
You can find lots of information on the internet describing schizophrenia. No single symptom positively identifies schizophrenia; all of the symptoms are similar to other mental illnesses.
Scientists don’t really know, but schizophrenia can run in families. Like cancer or diabetes, it appears to be caused by a combination of things, including genetic vulnerability and environmental factors that occur during a person’s development.
Medication is only one part of what’s needed, although there’s no known cure. The main type used are called antipsychotics. Several combinations of medications may need to be tried to find what works best. Commonly, people may stop treatment when they feel better or think the medication isn’t working. This is very dangerous and can turn a relapse into an acute psychotic episode.
Psychosocial rehabilitation also needs to be part of a treatment plan. Those who attend a structured program of this nature and stay on their medication manage their illness best. One effective approach, especially if the person also abuses substances, is the Program for Assertive Community Treatment (PACT). This is an intensive team effort to help the individual stay out of the hospital and live independently.
Hospitalization. Sometimes this is necessary to treat acute symptoms: Severe delusions or hallucinations, serious suicidal thoughts, an inability to care for oneself, or severe problems with drugs or alcohol can become an issue.
Recovery: Over the last 25 years the outlook has improved. Many can get better with treatment and support. As more is learned, more people living with schizophrenia can embrace recovery and achieve successful lives.
HELP FROM NAMI
Peer to Peer classes – a free 9 week education course, led by mentors who themselves have mental illness and have achieved recovery. They provide great support. The content provides comprehensive information and teaches strategies for personal and interpersonal awareness, coping skills, and self-care. Check out the NAMI website (below) to find out what’s available in your area (or online). They also offer Peer support groups.
Family to Family class – a free 12 week course for family members similar to the Peer class. Led by a family member who has a relative living with mental illness. My husband and I have taken this class and it was a tremendous help. I highly recommend you try it–available online.
NAMI help line: (800) 950-6264 nami.org
Has your loved one refused treatment? Between 50% to 70% of people with schizophrenia are not medication compliant. They don’t believe they need help or have an illness. They argue and fight against you. If this is your situation, then you need the book I Am Not Sick I Don’t Need Help!: How to Help Someone with Mental Illness Accept Treatment by Xavier Amador, Ph.D. He understands. His older brother suffered for years with schizophrenia. After a long decade of battling with his brother to get help – which he adamantly refused – Dr. Amador, then a clinical psychologist, developed an effective strategy to help families. His approach is called LEAP. It is widely accepted and used all over the world, even to train first responders. The focus of LEAP is respectful, nonjudgemental communication.
L = listen
E = empathize
A = agree
P = partner
Learn more about the LEAP approach: leapinstitude.org
Watch an 18 minute video of Dr. Amador explaining more about LEAP here.
THERE IS HOPE
Having a child with schizophrenia is a huge challenge, but dear parent please be encouraged because there is help and hope – for you and for your child.
Be uplifted by these two Bible verses:
“Put your hope in God . . .” (Psalm 42:5) NIV.
“. . . I have hope because of the Lord’s great love and compassion” (Lamentations 3:21) NIV.