Tag Archives: Mental illness and the family

Schizophrenia and the Family

newer meBy Marvin Ross

In one of my earlier blogs, I talked about the stress that families with children with serious mental illnesses experience. Of course, parents who have a child with any serious chronic illness all have stress. But, when that illness is a serious mental illness, then the stress is even more horrendous for two reasons.

The first is that an illness that involves the brain results in significant changes. A happy, bright, funny person may become angry, violent, and unable to think rationally when in the throes of a psychotic state. Reasoning becomes impossible with someone who is delusional and who may very often deny or fail to understand that something is wrong. How do you cope and get that person the treatment  they need? It is difficult and can tear families apart.

We can read the above words or my previous blog on the suffering of families and think that we understand but to truly understand, we need to see it. And my fellow blogger, David Laing Dawson, managed to do that in this scene from his film, Cutting For Stone about a young man developing schizophrenia. Dominic Zamprogna who is best known for his roles in Edgemont and General Hospital, plays the young man Philip and, in this scene, confronts his parents after an escape from the hospital. While fictitious, the scene that is portrayed reflects the reality of many families and, having been there when this scene was shot, the emotion effected all of the crew.

After Vince Li, a man with untreated schizophrenia, murdered a fellow passenger on a Greyhound Bus in Manitoba, David filmed this interview with Philip’s mother in a short called “10 Years Later”.¬† And this is the second problem faced by families, the stigma of the illness and the horrific things that those who are untreated do. And, before seeing this clip, I should point out that Vince Li was released from a Toronto hospital while still psychotic with no follow up. Since being in a forensic unit receiving treatment, he has improved considerably, His psychiatrist told the review board that he is at low risk to re-offend. Risk assessments done by several other doctors came to the same conclusion.

The above is fiction based upon David’s many years treating patients and so is as realistic as it can be. However, Katherine Flannery Dering who wrote about her brother with treatment resistant schizophrenia provides an actual description of how mental illness impacts the entire family. This is an interview that Katherine did with journalist, Ardina Seward, in a diner in Westchester, NY.