Mental Illness, Part 3 – Has Your Child Been Diagnosed with Schizophrenia?

rope bridgeSchizophrenia. 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 path for a while. Some days you feel okay and other days you’re not.

A friend of mine, whose daughter struggles with schizophrenia, says she often feels way out of her comfort zone. Sometimes it feels like she’s living in a nightmare.

It’s 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 – will be helpful on your journey.

Schizophrenia is often misunderstood, yet is a highly treatable mental illness (or brain disorder). It 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 it; all of the symptoms are similar to other mental illnesses.

Causes: Scientists don’t really know, but it can run in families. Like cancer or diabetes, it seems to be caused by a combination of factors, including genetic vulnerability and environmental factors that occur during a person’s development.

Treatment: Medication is only one part of what’s needed, although there’s no known cure. The main type used is 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 is also abusing substances, is the Program for Assertive Community Treatment (PACT). It’s an intensive team effort to help them 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.

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.

There’s also 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 and it was a tremendous help. I highly recommend it.

NAMI help line: (800) 950-6264

Does your loved one refuse treatment? Then you need the book I Am Not Sick I Don’t Need Help! by Xavier Amador, Ph.D.

Having a child with schizophrenia is a huge challenge, but be encouraged – there’s help and hope.

Be uplifted by these two Bible verses:

“Put your hope in God . . .” (Psalm 42:5)

“. . . I have hope because of the Lord’s great love and compassion”.  (Lamentations 3:21)

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