In the past month I’ve learned so much about schizophrenia. It’s become an almost obsession, to figure out it’s idiosyncrasies, in an attempt to stay ahead of it. Elliott my eldest who has now been officially diagnosed as schizophrenic has begun to respond to his newly prescribed antipsychotic medication. The suicidal urges have started to weaken and he has found a new sort of control over them, one I cautiously celebrate. The suicide rate for schizophrenics is roughly 13%, whereas the general population has a 0.01% suicide rate. In fact it is the leading cause of death for schizophrenics. The voices have started to quiet as well and the other hallucinations have began to disappear along with the future that I once envisioned for my son.
We now embark on a lifetime journey of living with this chronic mental illness.
His path has now changed, shifted course in an unexpected way, and I somewhat mourn this fact unsure of what the future holds. Is it wise for him to father children? He always wanted to travel outside the United States is that even safe now? How well will he be able to function in everyday life? What happens if I were to die? How will he fall on the spectrum of symptoms, treatments, and functioning abilities?
Im saddened as I read statistic after statistic that reaffirms that the United States fails miserably to help the Seriously Mentally Ill amongst its masses. 50% of schizophrenics will be incarcerated at one point in life. They are also twice as likely to be killed by law enforcement. In states such as Florida a schizophrenic is 5 times more likely to be incarcerated than hospitalized. In West Virginia where I live there are 16,000 schizophrenics and only 260 hospital beds state wide equipped to aid them in treatment. It is believed that 2/3 of the homeless in America are mentally ill and a vast majority of these suffer from schizophrenia.
I learned that 50 years ago when the government shut down state run mental facilities the jails soon absorbed the mentally ill. My own son was pepper sprayed and placed in a straight jacket while incarcerated because he tried to harm himself and this treatment is semi par for the course. These places do the best with what they have, but jails were never designed to act as psychiatric hospitals. It is cruel and unusual punishment to take a mentally ill person who is suicidal and cut them off from family and friends and place them on lockdown for 24 hours a day. My son is lucky though, he at least gets his medication and sees a doctor. In more rural poorer communities jails can’t afford the medication therefore inmates don’t receive any.
I’ve now made friends with a variety of mothers, one in particular has touched my heart deeply, her name is Pamela Wooden. Her son Christopher was shot by the police 4 times while in a state of psychosis after the family had called for help because Christopher was being suicidal. Christopher is not alone, we need more Crisis Intervention Teams on all law enforcement levels. Christopher was ill, he needed help, and his death is a tragic reminder of how we are failing a very vulnerable demographic group in our society. They can’t protect themselves, so we as clear thinking care givers must change this system to better serve their needs.
If you love someone with schizophrenia you will face many different road bumps along the way. They can consist of many sleepless nights, hospitalizations and even incarceration’s. You will have to make a commitment to take care of yourself as well, you will need to fill up your own cup before you can help others. I’ve learned it’s ok to cry, it’s ok to be mad, it’s ok to pause and catch your breath but above all it’s ok to love someone with schizophrenia just like you did before they became ill. They depend on you to stay strong and think clearly to help them make good decisions that result in wellness for them. It’s not a shameful thing, it’s just an illness that can be treated and managed with medication and doctors. I’ve learned it’s a day by day walk, there are ups and downs, steps forward and steps backward.
But as long as there is love there is hope.
Places To Get Help & Support For Free
I’ve connected with NAMI which has created a very strong nationwide support system of all kinds of resources. They truly are dedicated to advocating a better future for the mentally ill here in America. I urge you to join forces with them. They have free books, referrals to lawyers, your state level civil liberties unions, support groups and all sorts of educational material for all varieties of mental illness. https://www.nami.org/
Another resource that anyone who is caring for a mentally ill loved one can benefit from is the Mental Health First Aid Course. This free 8 hour class teaches you the fundamentals of dealing with a loved one should you find yourself in a crisis such as psychosis. It also teaches you to assess suicide risks in your loved one. It has really great information on mental illness — how mental illness compares to physical illness, perceptions & stigmas of mental illness, what mental disorders are, the different types of disorders, how to better understand what someone who suffers a disorder experiences, how to compassionately approach & communicate with someone who is suffering, how to assess for suicide risk, how to respectfully guide someone to get help, what the different types of help are. And the really great part is it is a nationwide program that is provided free of charge in most areas. You can find one close to you via a simple search and can register online now!
Dealing With Anosognosia:
When your loved one refuses to take their medication.
NAMI suggests all caregivers read the following book which they provide free of charge in PDF format. Many schizophrenics believe that they do not need to take their medicine, and when they stop taking it, many undesirable outcomes can occur. This book teaches you how to support your loved one and help them to take their medication.
22 thoughts on “When Someone You Love Has Schizophrenia…”
I suffered from schizophrenia as a young adult and can attest that because of support from the medical community (the VA) and friends and the church, I was able to successfully make it through. This disorder is not constant, going through many cycles of extreme ups and downs. The overwhelming feature of this is that people are labelled as schizophrenic rather than as people. Thus, the crazies are treated differently and then there should be no surprise that the patient feels isolated and ‘different. Just because your mind might go ‘crazy’ doesn’t mean the person’s character is any less than others. Patience, understanding and encouragement is what these patients need, and yes, more often than not medication can be a lifesaver. When I was really young in the 50s we had no such luxuries as the medications we have now. Finally, some churches preach against the mediations and this simply does not heal. It does’t help at all. I think we should work with whatever tools available. In the end, most if we can walk with them far enough down the road, make the rest of it on their own. Thank you for this most inssightful and caring post. I appreciate it. In Jesus.
Absolutely agree with you! We have to treat this as any other illness with compassion, caring and with DIGNITY. This is an illness, just like any other that comes on a person for mysterious reasons, we must treat that person with kindness and ditch all these stigmas. I pray God does a work in mental health this year to destroy the homes of bondage that are keeping people from living in wellness and YES that wellness can be found through medication! The evangelical community needs to be educated to the fact that these medicines do for a schizophrenic what a Tylenol does for a child with a fever…it helps them live a better quality life and that is not a bad thing. God works through medicine and doctors minds!
I am convinced that God has directed many of our discoveries, such as say: penicillin. These were no mere accidents. I say God assisted and guided them in the process and discovery.
Absolutely. He heals us in many forms. I’ve had to have cesarean sections in order to have children. Without skilled doctors hands and surgical procedures I’d be dead too. Modern medicine is a gift from God, he gave us intelligence it’s not sinful to use it…I think the contrary.
Thank you for writing this post. Sharing such an experience takes courage.
Generally, I argue against government solutions. The failure of our government to deal effectively with mental illness illustrates the problem. Here is a clear case where only government has the resources, and it is frightfully difficult to get government to do anything. Yet the mentally ill are incapable of helping themselves, and private organizations have no authority to make the mentally ill cooperate with treatment.
Consider it a small blessing your son is only 16. Because he is still a minor, you can exercise control you will lose when he is 18. If possible, get his schizophrenia under control before before he reaches 18. That is, help your son to understand the benefit of voluntarily accepting appropriate treatment.
Anyway, I will pray for your son and your family. I don’t know much about schizophrenia, but I do know it is a biological problem, not a moral problem. Just our bodies can suffer illness so can our minds. Yet mental illnesses can be highly confusing because the signs of the disease/disorder may not be obvious. We can see the irrational behavior, but not the cause. So whatever you do, don’t blame yourself or your son. Focus on the disease/disorder.
When a relative of mine received treatment for mental illness, a member of the psychiatric staff pointed her to this prayer. Perhaps it will bring a little comfort.
Remember also that our Lord is more merciful than we know. The phrase “it came to pass” occurs nearly 200 times in the Bible, and there is a lesson in that. What lesson? Our Lord knows we can only withstand so much good or ill. This too shall pass.
May our Lord use this time of suffering to bless you and your family.
My son with schizophrenia is actually 22. I was made his proxy in the mental hospital before his incarceration but the jail does not honor this. The 16 year old was at the doctors due to an abscess on his tonsils. Thank you for the serenity prayer it is one of my favorites. If you look through my recent posts you will see one entitled Elliotts Story…this is my eldest son.
Got the ages mixed up, I guess. When I went back looking for the age of your elder son, I saw the “16” and did not double-check.
Anyway, I guess you know about the jail headaches all too well. The run-ins with the law can be frightening. Policemen mean well, but they cannot do anything until the law is broken.
I will have to read Elliotts Story.
I continue to pray for you, Elliott, and all those affected as you walk through this together. It is most definitely the valley of the unknown when everything is so new. When it hit our family, it drew us closer together. It was not the way we would have chosen, but we knew that all we had apart from God was the choice to support each other as we were all trying to figure out how to adjust to life in a different way. I thank God for those He has already placed in your path to give insight into this journey and the ones He will continue to place.
What the enemy intended for division God has brought solidarity through….yes I feel that too! It is a different path, but all that happens does pass through the hands of God so I know this is THEE path he placed us on…and he will hold my hand all the way through. He’s such an amazing, perfect, God!
Indeed He is! I praise God for the perspective He has given you. He is sovereign and has the devil on a leash.
At first we tend to research everything we can about this disease,to search for solutions and explanations.It’s not very well understood,the causes are still unknown,and the statistics will just scare the heck out of you. But we all know statistics don’t necessarily tell the whole story. A 13% suicide rate actually means 87% do not succumb to suicide. Much of that has to do with their own faith,the way they were raised,how much family support they have. Like anyone else, suicide rates go way up when we are estranged from our families, alone, and separated from faith.
Something that really helped me,was researching ancient cultures, primitive ones,and how they perceived schizophrenia. Some actually honored it, they saw it as a great blessing, a spiritual calling. Only the best were thought to have been chosen. Rather then being an illness, a disorder, it was thought to have been a spiritual gift, a privilege. I needed to see that more positive view of schizophrenia in my own mind. It’s a hard blessing, especially for moms who are somewhat helpless, but what if it really is a blessing? I came to realize that perceiving schizophrenia as a defect was attaching a negative stigma to something that need not be seen that way. When I look at people with schizophrenia, am I seeing a flaw, a disorder, or am I honoring them and their way of perceiving reality as a potential gift from God? As time went by, I’ve gotten much better at appreciating what they have to offer, what they have to teach us, and what it takes to walk with this challenge, to overcome it. There are a whole lot of success stories out there, there are people who have lived valuable and beautiful lives, successful ones even. At first it often feels like a death sentence, but in truth, there is a great deal of hope to be had.
This is beautiful and filled with so much hope ❤️ thank you. I’m trying to get as connected as I can and I do know that a lot of his strengths are still there. He has such a beautiful soul. He always has this peaceful way of seeing life that is still there. I will take your advice and research the other cultures aspect…thank you again.
I think there is a strong link, an association with Aspergers and schizophrenia. At least there is that commonality between a high level of creativity and schizophrenia and at last near genius along with the oddity of the personality. At least what I am trying to say is that it doesn’t have to be a curse attached to it that is generally accepted with it. Yes, this can easily be seen as a gift. For myself, once I learned to accept myself the way I was and not fight it, then it went along much more smoothly. On the edges of the extremes were the forces I had to tame. No, I couldn’t conquer them but at least I had to put those on some type of leash. Thank you for expressing the respect, the positive high regard for what others deem only a weird disease.
Thanks for sharing more of your journey with this stuff Tamara. I have no idea what your going through. I have experienced my own intense mental health season when I was younger but its helpful to read another persons perspective, I think its awesome that you are connecting with others who are going through the same thing. Community is really important in these times.
Journey and community- two words with BIG meanings in this course of life.
Thanks for sharing your prayers and insights. The more people who are willing to share, the more we remove the stigma associated with mental illness from sufferers and their families. God bless you and your sons.
Thank you and God bless you too!
Thank you so much for writing this and providing sources for help and clarity!!
Thank you for sharing. ❤
Thanks for your like of my post, “The Bride.” I’m a real softie on weddings.