Thoughts on Schizophrenia Awareness Day – The Courgage of Those Who Suffer and Their Families

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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Imagine being a teen just starting out in the world and learning how to cope when gradually you start to become withdrawn, you likely hear strange voices insulting you and telling you to do various things, your reality becomes altered and you’re not sure who your friends are and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.

http://www.bcss.org/recordings-project/2013-clinical-neurosciences-recordings/erin-hawkes-die-girl-die-my-psychosis-and-its-treatment/

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.

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3 thoughts on “Thoughts on Schizophrenia Awareness Day – The Courgage of Those Who Suffer and Their Families

  1. Remind me next year about Oct. 10th. Very touching blog. I helped with an “Ask the doctor” education night at NAMI, last night and gave encouraging testimonies.

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  2. I witnessed this suffering in my son as schizophrenia snatched his brain and created cruel, critical voices inside his head.

    Then I found out that there was really nothing to save him in Canada’s mental illness system as as he and I travelled through a system which had no cure, no working treatment to alleviate his suffering. I think he realized this so he found his own release by killing himself at 21 years of age.

    Those who know the reality of this diseases want nothing more than the scientific brain research that could find the cure for chronic diseases of the brain like schizophrenia and the myriad of other related diseases.

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  3. Thank you Marvin for continuing to focus on one of Canada’s shameful acts, the failure to provide adequate treatment that can help manage psychotic illnesses. Accessibility is one of the criteria of the Canada Health Act, however, appropriate health care is not available to many with serious mental illness and newcomers to Canada (for 3 months). While those in the medical field have fought for the rights of newcomers to access healthcare, there are not enough psychiatrists fighting to ensure that those afflicted with psychotic disorders get adequate treatment. It would be great if more psychiatrists could join families in advocating for more and better care. The Mental Health Commission which began as a result of the testimonies of people with these illnesses and their families to the 2006 “Out of the Shadows at Last” Senate Committee has done nothing substantial to help those with serious mental illnesses or their families. Despite the complaints of families, they continue to ignore the needs of the seriously mentally ill and are considering, I believe, applying to extend their mandate. This bureaucratic agency costs the taxpayer $15,000,000 per year but is not making any difference in the lives of people with serious mental illness or their families.

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