In the novel I’m currently writing, the main character becomes a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for abused and neglected children. I have been a CASA volunteer for two years with the Chesapeake Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. One of the requirements to remain a CASA is to complete twelve hours of training each year. As part of my training, last week I attended a seminar entitled, “Help Me Understand: Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective.” Sounds like fun, right?
The seminar was actually very informative when it comes to understanding how a person suffering with schizophrenia feels, and how we can help them. Many of the suggestions can apply to other mental illnesses as well.
The first thing to understand is, people who suffer with mental illness can’t help it. They did not cause their illness. To tell someone with a mental illness to just get over it would be like telling someone with cancer to just get better. Psychosis is not made up. It’s not one specific mental illness, nor is it caused by bad parenting. It’s not untreatable, violent by nature, having multiple personalities, a sign of weakness, or a character flaw.
Did you know that nearly 3.5% of all people will experience psychosis in their lifetime? That’s over 11,300,000 American people. Psychotic disorders involve changes in perception of reality, and typically start in adolescence or early adulthood. They affect the body, behaviors, and thoughts. Common types of psychotic disorders include Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder, Schizophreniform Disorder, Delusional Disorder, and Schizotypal Disorder. Psychosis can also be a feature of other illnesses like Bipolar Disorder and Depression.
If you, or someone you love, is possibly experiencing psychosis, seek professional help. Don’t let fear, or the stigma that can be associated with mental illness, keep you from early intervention. You can complete a mental health screening at mhascreening.org. This isn’t a diagnosis, but can be a helpful tool for starting a conversation with your doctor or loved one about your mental health. This screening, through “Mental Health America,” is anonymous, free, and confidential.
How can you help a loved one suffering from psychosis? Encourage them to schedule regular doctor appointments, remind them to keep taking their medications, take steps to help them avoid alcohol and illicit drugs, help them to be less stressed, help them maintain a healthy weight, try to limit power struggles, help them maintain their social skills, and know that you may have to intervene. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, each step toward these goals should be small, and they should be taken one at a time. Treatment works, but it’s a process. It doesn’t work overnight.
A Schizophrenia diagnosis can be distressing not just for the person with the mental illness, but the entire family. Use the following tips to manage the condition together. The first thing you should do is contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and use their support and educational resources. Other steps your family can take include learning as much as you can about the disorder, seeking family counseling, developing a home treatment plan, making a legal plan, making your home a safe place, and boosting your love one’s self-confidence. And please don’t forget to take care of yourself. Being the caregiver to someone with schizophrenia, or any mental illness, can be stressful and take a toll on your own physical health. One way to find support and resources is to join a caregiver support group. You can find one in your area through NAMI.
A mental illness diagnosis can be scary. Please don’t walk through it alone. Reach out and get the assistance that is available to you. Educate yourself and those in your family. Ask for prayer support. Seek the Lord’s guidance in each step of the journey. Trust Him to open the right doors for therapy, medication, support, and other help. Don’t let fear hold you back from seeking solutions for better mental health.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7
*I am in no way a professional when it comes to mental health. What I’ve shared was taken from handouts received through the Virginia Beach Department of Human Services Behavioral Health Division, and is for information purposes only. If you, or someone you know, needs help concerning any mental illness, reach out to your local Department of Human Services and find out about the resources available to you. There’s help and hope.
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