I have a friend who doesn’t live in this region ask me if I could write something about the plight of some folks in our society. Her adopted adult son has recently been diagnosed with schizophrenia on top of the fetal alcohol syndrome they’ve been aware of since his birth. She’s trying to lend a helping hand of course but finding it a slippery slope. She recognizes the need for medication — he doesn’t think he requires it; she wants to provide shelter and food for him — he wants to continue to live a life using alcohol and illicit drugs. Setting and enforcing boundaries for mentally ill adults is not something that is easily done. The son has lived on the streets; the parent has offered a home with stipulations. Does he understand those stipulations? Is it possible for him to abide by them or should he have to? So many questions and so few answers.
I was shocked to find out there are more hospital beds in B.C. with schizophrenic patients in them than those suffering from any other disease. One in 12 citizens of the world are afflicted, meaning about 40,000 patients in B.C. The disease strikes young people that are generally aged 16 to 25 and is almost always treatable.
It is a medical condition and not caused by childhood trauma, poor parenting, stress or drug abuse. Some drugs can, however, cause similar symptoms or trigger an episode for the patient.
A diagnosis of a family member causes all kinds of emotions… shock, disbelief, anxiety, shame and blame to name a few. It’s important for those close to the patient to understand they are not at fault but need to provide support and understanding for family members as well as the individual with schizophrenia.
Early treatment is very important as it is in all diseases. A typical patient is often not diagnosed for three years after symptoms first appear. The prescription drugs that are available have come a long way and some side effects have been eliminated.
What does all this mean to you? Well, the statistic is one in 12… you can do the math and calculate how many sufferers likely live in the valley. Could you be more supportive of a patient or a family member of a patient? Find out what you can about this disease and see how you could help.
Do you have a topic you’d like to see discussed here? I’d be happy to receive an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.