Schizophrenia. 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 – on other days you’re not.
A friend of mine whose daughter struggles with this mental health issue says she often feels far out of her comfort zone. “Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a nightmare” she explained.
Being the parent of a child who suffers with schizophrenia is a little like trying to cross a precarious rope bridge, only you haven’t got any choice – you have to keep going, even though you’re scared to death. I hope you find the following information from NAMI (The National Alliance on Mental Illness – nami.org) to be helpful on your journey.
Often misunderstood, schizophrenia (a brain disorder) is highly treatable. Interfering with the ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others, more than two million American adults are affected with this disorder every year. Did you see that? Two million.
Many are shunned because this illness causes unusual and unpredictable behavior. It isn’t caused by bad parenting or personal weakness; can affect anyone at any age, and typically emerges during the teens and twenties to slightly more men than women.
You can find plenty of information on the Internet, but no single symptom positively identifies schizophrenia. Symptoms are similar to other mental illnesses, adding to the difficulty of an accurate diagnosis.
Causes: Scientists don’t really know, however, this can run in families. Like cancer or diabetes, schizophrenia 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 psychiatrists prescribe are anti-psychotics. Several combinations 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. A highly dangerous choice this can lead to a relapse and then into an acute psychotic episode.
Psycho-social rehabilitation also needs to be part of a treatment plan. Those who attend this type of structured program tend to stay on their medication and manage their illness best. One effective approach, especially if the person is also abusing substances, is the Program for Assertive Community Treatment. PACT 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.
Recovery: Over the last 25 years the outlook has improved. Your child can get better with treatment and support. As more is learned, increasing numbers of people are living successfully with schizophrenia, embracing recovery and achieving fulfillment in their 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 including strategies for personal and interpersonal awareness, coping skills, and self-care. Check out NAMI’s website 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 making the time to take it.
NAMI help line: (800) 950-6264 nami.org
Does your loved one refuse or repeatedly discontinue treatment?
If your answer is yes, then you need the book I Am Not Sick I Don’t Need Help! by Xavier Amador, Ph.D. He wrote it out of his personal journey with his brother. Dr. Amador is world renowned for his work. His book and website are excellent resources.
Having a child with schizophrenia is a huge challenge, but be encouraged – there’s help and hope.
I pray these two Bible verses will uplift you:
“Put your hope in God . . . (Psalm 42:5).”
“. . . I have hope because of the Lord’s great love and compassion (Lamentations 3:21).”