Coping with mental illness in a family


I can no longer remember how many psychologists, psychiatrists or social workers my family met during our son’s battle with paranoid schizophrenia and the only place we received really practical advice was at the two support groups we attended. One was run by a social worker, and the second was known as a self-help group run by two parents…myself and a friend.

About 22 parents attended meetings every two weeks and not one of them wanted a professional to run the group. We invited a psychiatrist and a social worker on the odd occasion but the  most helpful talk was by someone who suggested using humor to defuse difficult situations at home. The only time I remember laughing out loud during those difficult years was during the hour he spent with us. At the support groups we learned:-

  • To take one day at a time.
  • To alter our expectations to fit the new situation.
  • We learned that it’s not what happens in life that counts but how one handles it.
  • We learned that a delusion will not go away so forget the persuasion and arguments.
  • We learned to separate our child from his/her illness which I found very difficult to do.
  • The group made me aware of how damaging my anger was and helped me learn to handle  it.
  • I actually learned to accept the things I could not change, the strength to change what I could, and the wisdom to know the difference. I learned that mainly from my late husband.
  • We learned to search for the positive aspects of our lives and I found that I had quite a lot to be thankful for. I had a loving, supportive husband, healthy daughters and grandchildren, jobs that we enjoyed doing, and a home of our own.

What I wanted from the professionals, was some honesty. When they realized that there was little they could do for our son, I needed to know this and to know how to proceed from there. What was good for him and what would bother him most. I know that not all parents want to know the true situation but when parents do need to know, it can only be of help to them.

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