Identifying and diagnosing schizophrenia usually doesn’t occur until the person experiences a change in a set routine. For instance, graduating high school or college. These are stressors that cause an initial psychotic break. It may be the first time a family perceives the magnitude of the individual’s mental health issues.
Prior to the initial break, the family may have experienced behavior issues. I remember my brother used to be afraid of going over bridges. He would try to hide under the car seat. Of course, I thought it was hysterical. He also didn’t like to go to school and would lock his door so my parents couldn’t get him up.
Medical help was scanty. The first psychologist blamed my mother. Nothing to do except be a better mother. The pediatrician didn’t know what to do and was unwilling to send him anywhere. He told my mother to give him more peanut butter. The next one said my parents needed to provide “tough love”. If my bother refused to go to school, drag him out of bed, get him dressed, send him outside and lock the doors.
Over the years, I have learned that the quirks were signs of schizophrenia. As my brother aged, he got worse until his initial break. Today there are resources for families. It is hard for any family to acknowledge their child may have a mental illness, especially schizophrenia.
One of the best resources is the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). This organization has local groups that offer education, support groups and advocacy.www.nami.org
In most states there is a Department of Mental Health. Each state varies in services. They provide resource guides, help and assessing medical care, help with housing and assistance with work and placement training. My brother received great services from the state of Illinois. He got work training, was placed in at a job that understood his problem and a supportive medical team.
Other resources are www.schizophrenia.com for educational information and resources.
The National Institute of Mental Health www.nimh.nih.gov
When a family member has schizophrenia, there is a sense of isolation and shame. These two resources can help to alleviate those feelings. The most important message is, you are not alone.
Tomorrow’s blog: Choosing the right medical care.