By Marvin Ross
Every year, the World Health Organization celebrates October 10 as World Mental Health Day to raise awareness and this year their theme is living with schizophrenia. I think we should all pause for a moment and consider just how hard it is for those with this terrible affliction to cope and to commend them for how many of them do cope.
Imagine being a teen just starting out in the world and learning how to cope when gradually you start to become withdrawn, you likely hear strange voices insulting you and telling you to do various things, your reality becomes altered and you’re not sure who your friends are and you begin to misinterpret their intentions and the intentions of your own family.
One of the best depictions of what it is like to have these delusions was by Erin Hawkes who described them to a conference on psychosis at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver last year.
But if the symptoms are not bad enough, those who suffer have to contend with the lack of understanding that so many have of schizophrenia. It is not a moral failure. It is not the result of bad parenting. It is an illness like so many other illnesses and those who suffer deserve to be treated with the respect accorded anyone else who suffers.
And they deserve to get a quality of treatment that others who are ill receive and that includes hospital beds when they need them, proper medical care, psychiatric care, support services like counseling, housing and vocational help.
The bravery of those who cope is exemplified here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4loR-bAKbuQ
And, we cannot forget to mention the family. It is devastating to any parent to watch the potential that their teen posses shattered by a horrific brain disease and the lack of sympathy that they often receive from those around them. As Katherine Flannery Dering put it “My younger brother Paul was more than a ‘schizophrenic’. He was a brother, a son, and above all, a person that my eight siblings and I loved.”
So, the next time you see a disheveled street person mumbling away to no one, remember that they are someone’s child and they are likely sick and in need of help.