Contributor: Nastaeen Tajin
We’ve all seen “ A Beautiful Mind” and felt inspired to help those who are suffering from Schizophrenia. But no doubt Hollywood has glorified what it really means to be schizophrenic. Schizophrenia is a very severe, brain disabling disorder that affects 1% of the nation’s population, which is roughly 3 million people. People who suffer from this disorder often report on hearing voices that others cannot hear. They might start to believe that others are reading or controlling their minds, or plotting to harm them. This can terrify people with the illness and make them withdrawn or extremely agitated. People with schizophrenia may not make sense when they talk or may sit for hours without moving or talking. Sometimes people with schizophrenia may seem to be perfectly fine until they talk about what they are really thinking.
The origin of schizophrenia in a person is unknown. However, according to Dr. Irving Gottesman, “the disorder can be understood only by considering both the genetic evidence and the familial and societal pressures associated with the onset of schizophrenia and course”. In other words, people who suffer from the illness are either born with it, or environmental pressures cause them to see or hear things.
Building off of that, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, “The risk is highest for an identical twin of a person with schizophrenia. He or she has a 40 to 65 percent chance of developing the disorder”. However, genetics and environment do not account for all the schizophrenics. Scientists predict that another cause would be an imbalance in the complex, interrelated chemical reactions of the brain involving the neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate, and possibly others, plays a role in schizophrenia. The chart below shows probability of developing schizophrenia in relation to familial genetics.
Unfortunately, although the medical field is always expanding due to new findings, schizophrenics are receiving less help. According to a 2011 post by Crain’s Detroit Business, four consecutive years of funding cutbacks to mental health services in Michigan, $8.5 million proposed for fiscal 2012 starting Oct. 1, are starting to take its toll on mental health agencies in metropolitan Detroit. According to Wayne County Sheriff, Benny Napoleon, “The Wayne County Jail is the largest psychiatric hospital in the state and as many as 70 percent of people incarcerated in the jail have some form of mental health problems.” Clearly this number is too high and these people must be helped in order to avoid a future dilemma.
Despite the cut in funds, people with schizophrenia still are able to receive various different types of help. There are many different types of therapies that can help schizophrenics.
Electroconvulsive therapy: This involves passing an electrical current through the patient’s brain while under mild anesthesia. This is generally reserved for patients who refuse to cooperate with the medication.
Psychotherapy: This is a way for the therapist to be able to connect with the schizophrenic patient. It also focuses on present issues, which helps develop social skills, and teaches them how to cope with their disorder, possibly introduce techniques that would last a lifetime.
Behavior Therapy: People with schizophrenia may develop behaviors that would raise some concern by family and others. Behaviour therapy addresses the patient's strengths and weaknesses. Token economies are where desired behaviours are reinforced by praise or tokens. These tokens relate to benefits the patient may desire. It is believed that social skills can be re-taught through role plays and such.
Cognitive Therapy: Cognitive therapy may be used to improve cognitive impairments associated with schizophrenia such as distractibility, poor attention and memory impairment.
Family Therapy: Family support plays a significant role in helping to reduce relapses. Families need to be educated about the illness and taught to identify and avoid problematic situations. Families are in a pivotal position to discern signs and symptoms of an impending relapse and thus prevent them from being full blown.
Group Therapy: People with schizophrenia can reduce social deprivation and isolation and improve relationships by seeking solutions for their problems through group therapy. This allows them to listen to others’ problems as well as figure out their own. It creates a sense of community.
It may be challenging to understand what may be going through a schizophrenic’s mind, but because they think differently, sound differently, doesn’t make them inferior or less deserving of healthcare. They are people, just like you and me, and they deserve happiness as much as the next person. This is what we’re all about here at MedEq, giving people opportunities to improve their health for those who cannot do so themselves. Rest assured, helping people with schizophrenia is definitely on our agenda.
George, P. P. "Current Trends in the Management of Schizophrenia." Med J Malaysia 56.1 (1999): n. pag. Mar. 2002. Web. 21 Nov. 2015. <http://www.e-mjm.org/2002/v57n1/Schizophrenia.pdf>.
Treatment Advocacy Center. The Risks of Getting Schizophrenia. N.d. Schizophrenia.com, n.p.
Gottesman, Irving. "Schizophrenia Genesis: The Origins of Madness." APA PsycNET. N.p., 1991. Web. 21 Nov. 2015. <http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=search.displayRecord&uid=1990-98902-000>.
National Institute of Mental Health. "Schizophrenia." NIMH RSS. N.p., 2015. Web. 21 Nov. 2015. <http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/index.shtml>.
Greene, Jay. "Mental Health Cuts in Detroit Have Increased Law Enforcement Problems, Flooded ERs and Created General Misery." Crain's Detroit Business. Crain's Detroit Business, 06 May 2011. Web. 21 Nov. 2015. <http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20110506/BLOG010/110509920/mental-health-cuts-in-detroit-have-increased-law-enforcement-problems>.