Our Readers' Lives with Schizophrenia

Chapter 6. Getting Help


Updated: Oct. 24, 2000

Contents


Seeking Medical Advice

What was it like the first time you saw a medical therapist or a psychologist?

Reba, mother of Eric:
Seeking medical advice for my son was definitely a challenge. I first took him to a local mental health office where the psychiatrist informed me that I was over-reacting to my son's symptoms. He agreed to see Eric on an out-patient basis and prescribed no medications. By the next morning, my son had packed a few belongings and headed for a large city. It was seven years before a diagnosis was actually made. I was very frustrated and upset at the psychiatrist for his unwillingness to listen to me as a parent describing my son's symptoms. My son was paranoid and psychotic but sat quietly and pretended there was nothing wrong with him convincing the psychiatrist to schedule future visits -- which he never kept. Finding a doctor who is knowledgeable, understanding and trusting is of utmost importance. If the patient or family members do not feel comfortable with the medications prescribed or possible side effects, then find another doctor more satisfactory. Sometimes, during psychotic episodes, emergency intervention against the patient's will becomes necessary. I have always felt that my son's mental condition would have not deteriorated so drastically if medical intervention had taken place sooner.

Laura:
[Oct. 19, 2000]
I got help for my son pretty quickly due to the fact that he was already involved with mental health. The doctor referred him to a specialist because he too felt there was something more there, mainly because none of the medicines were working like they should have.

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Diagnosing Schizophrenia

What was your psychological response to the first diagnosis of schizophrenia?

Reba, mother of Eric:
Eric was symptomatic upon his discharge from the military at age 20. However, his diagnosis was not made until he was 27. Fortunately, he was forced to enter a hospital after being removed from the streets of Los Angeles. There he was diagnosed and a prognosis was given. By this time, his condition would be "guarded" even with medications. It is extremely difficult to receive an accurate diagnosis unless the mentally ill individual will cooperate and consent to treatment. It was actually a relief as a parent to have a definite diagnosis. I never quite knew what I was dealing with and certainly my heart ached as a mother watching her son constantly in a downward spiral of life. Getting a proper diagnosis is the beginning of an important journey.

Andy:
[Apr. 26, 2000]
After I recovered from my first psychotic episode, I read everything I could on the subject of severe mental illness. I had suffered from depression, OCD, and complex partial seizures for several years, so I was pretty open-minded about things. I read about schizophrenia and thought the description sounded like me. I couldn't convince my psychiatrist or my family, though. It wasn't until my 4th episode that anyone realized I was sick.

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Confidentiality

What do you feel about your loved ones contacting the psychiatrist without your permission?

Reba, mother of Eric:
It is very important not to break the trust of a loved one while at the same time try to be informative to the medical staff treating the patient. I have won my son's trust and keep in touch with him on a weekly basis since he is out of state. There is constant contact with my son's medical team and social workers and I am kept advised of his progress or regression.

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What to Do in a Crisis

Reba, mother of Eric:
During a crisis, a calm, firm, reassuring voice is necessary so as not to upset the patient further. During a psychotic episode, sometimes it is necessary to call an ambulance if the patient is trying to hurt himself or starts destroying personal property. My son has intermittent rage attacks, which can be frightening to family members and to himself. It is very important not to threaten or upset the patient by screaming or yelling. Paramedics who are knowledgeable will be reassuring and most usually can handle the situation professionally.

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