Category Archives: mental illness information

What Exactly is Schizophrenia, Anyway?

I often get this question, even years after our family’s openness about Ben’s mental illness.Education is Power

Recently I came across this guide from Juno Medical, and it explains it all really well!

 

 

 

Here is an excerpt:

What is schizophrenia?

The word “schizophrenia” derives from the Greek “skhizein” (to split) and “phrēn” (mind) and indicates a long-term mental disorder that involves cognitive, behavioural, and emotional dysfunctions.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of schizophrenia usually start between ages 16 and 30 and can be divided into positive, negative, and cognitive ones.

Positive symptoms

Positive symptoms refer to an excess or distortion of normal functions.

Hallucinations: hallucinations can involve all 5 senses (hearing, sight, taste, smell, and touch). Hearing voices is the most common type of hallucination in schizophrenia. People with the disorder hear voices that talk to them about their behaviour, give them commands or threaten them or others.

Delusions: delusions involve having a distorted image of what is happening in the reality. Delusions can be persecutory, where people believe that others are trying to harm them or plotting against them, and delusions of reference, where people think that the environment is directly related to them, e.g. they believe they receive special messages through the TV or the radio.

Disorganized speech and behaviour: the person shows incoherent speech that impairs effective communication as well as difficulties in completing basic day-to-day activities. It also includes bizarre or inappropriate behaviour.

Negative symptoms

Negative symptoms refer to a decrease in socialization, motivation, emotional responsiveness, and movement.

Apathy: the person shows lower interest in activities that used to be part of his or her everyday life, such as work, studies, or sport. Personal hygiene and appearance may also suffer noticeably.

Lack of emotion: patients show diminished affective responsiveness or display inappropriate reaction – or no reaction at all – to either good or bad news. People with schizophrenia may also show anhedonia, which defines an inability to experience pleasure.

Poor social functioning: the person avoids contacts with other people and prefers to spend time alone and isolated.

Cognitive symptoms

Cognitive symptoms involve difficulties with memory and concentration.

Disorganized thoughts: schizophrenia sufferers may demonstrate disorganized thinking and difficulties in expressing thoughts or integrating feelings and behaviour.

Difficulty concentrating: the person displays attention deficit and the inability to gather and process information and make decision out of it.

Poor memory: the person will have trouble keeping recently learned information and use it to carry out a task.

  • Hebephrenic schizophrenia: also known as disorganized schizophrenia, this subtype involves incoherent, illogical thoughts and behaviours, and emotional blunting.

want to know more? check it out!

Here is the link to the full guide from Juno Medical.

Many thanks! EDUCATION IS POWER!

 

 

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On Glee, Odd Behavior, and – Schizophrenia?

Today’s post comes courtesy of Ben Behind His Voices reader – and fellow Mom and blogger – Kari Larson. She wrote to me about a recent episode of Glee that I had also watched….and noticed Sue Sylvester’s line of dialogue that compares character Blaine’s new interest (talking with puppets) to that of someone “with schizophrenia and off meds”

I had noticed it, but it didn’t really hit me as insulting because…well, hey, this is Glee, where they exaggerate pretty much everything and nothing is really off limits. Everyone acts erratically on Glee, and eventually they usually redeem themselves with some lesson following the farce.

But my son Ben doesn’t watch Glee, so he had no reaction to the episode. Kari, however, wrote about a different experience.

 

Hi Randye,

My daughter is 17 and has schizophrenia. She and I have watched Glee since the very beginning and overall it’s been a show that embraces all types of people.

The most recent episodes have really upset us, and I’m wondering if some of the dialogue has come to your attention.

In one episode, the character of Marley is complaining about her ex-boyfriend’s erratic behavior, that he’s nice one minute and horrible the next, and says it’s so “schizo.”

This not only upset me because it was said in a negative way, but because it’s not even correct, further perpetuating the myth that schizophrenia entails a split personality disorder. Untrue.

Another episode — quite possibly the very next one — has Sue Sylvester complaining that she didn’t want school board members coming to the school and seeing “schizophrenia” students talking to imaginary puppets (one character had a hand puppet).

My daughter is heartbroken. I’ve sent Twitter comments to Ryan Murphy (Glee creator), Glee on Fox (official Glee Twitter account) and one of the executive producers. I don’t expect to hear anything back, but I was wondering if any of this has come across your radar.

Thank you,
Kari Larson

 

In her blog(http://ninepillsaday.com/) , Kari adds: “I’m annoyed by two things. One: Schizophrenia DOES NOT MEAN split personalities. Two: Please, unless you, the writers of Glee, are headed toward a fantastic teaching moment, STOP USING THAT WORD. Stop using any form of that word. It’s insulting and, more often than not, used incorrectly.”

What do you think? Glee “just joking” in the way it does for many issues, or stigma to to be protested? Does Sue Sylvester owe us an apology in a future episode?

 

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Schizophrenia and Social Security Benefits

paperwork
Where to Start?

When we began the process for Ben to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, I was overwhelmed by confusion, options, paperwork….and had very little idea how to begin, much less proceed. I welcome a guest blogger today, Ram Meyyappan, who has written this about Social Security Disability Help. If you have questions, you can contact him at ram@ssd-help.org

 

Thanks!

Here is his article:

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits with Schizophrenia

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes Schizophrenia as a condition that qualifies for monthly disability payments. In order to be found eligible for either one of the disability programs you must show that despite following prescribed treatments your disease still prevents you from working.

Disability Programs

The SSA administers two different disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

Basic eligibility for either program requires:

  • you suffer from a debilitating and formally diagnosed medical condition that has been present for at least 12 months, or which is expected to last at least that long, or which is terminal.

AND

  • your condition prevents you from maintaining gainful employment in any field for which you would otherwise be qualified.

In order to qualify for SSDI, you must have a strong work history during which you paid FICA taxes. SSI does not take your work history into account. It is a needs-based program for people with limited income and assets. For more specific information on the requirements for SSI and SSDI, visit: http://www.ssa.gov/disability/

Meeting the Disability Listing for Schizophrenia Continue reading Schizophrenia and Social Security Benefits

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“Hearing Voices” Movement…Not For All

As the mother of a beautiful young man who struggles with schizophrenia every day of his life, I am always tempted by magical thinking.  What if Ben’s symptoms could be brought under his control without medication? What is he could somehow manage the hallucinations himself, if he only “understood” their origin?

brain in hands
Our Brain -How Much in Our Control?

Oh, how I wish.

There is a growing movement of those who are doing just that, they say.  I have met a few of them, heard their theories, congratulate them on their success, and wish them every happiness.

My son, however, would be harmed by this  “hearing voices” movement – or, in the US, something called Mad In America. I’m glad it has worked for some – but it is not for everyone.

Susan Inman talks about this in Huffington Post,  Canada:

Many perfectly healthy people have auditory hallucinations. However, auditory hallucinations can also often be part of the chaos of a psychotic illness. In recent years, numerous groups have developed to assist “voice hearers,” as some wish to be called. Unfortunately, most of these groups don’t want to recognize the very different needs of people with severe mental illnesses. Continue reading “Hearing Voices” Movement…Not For All

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Conversation Crossroad Interview

Here is the latest radio conversation about mental health, family support, the tragic (and possibly preventable) Newtown shootings, and more. So many issues.

Listen to internet radio with conxroad on Blog Talk Radio

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Schizophrenia, James Holmes, and Hindsight

I think the psychiatry career of  Dr. Lynne Fenton may be over.

Worse than that, she must be questioning whether she could have done anything to prevent the “Batman shootings” in Aurora that killed 12, and wounded many others.

James Holmes: Schizophrenia?

So it leaks out that shooter James Holmes has been in “treatment” for schizophrenia. Big Duh. It was only a matter of time before that was revealed, sadly.

The question, though, is this: what kind of “treatment” was he getting?

According to this PBS Report, and interview withCAROL LEONNIG,  of The Washington Post

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Holmes in court

“(New information) shows that James Holmes, the lead and only suspect in this shooting rampage in Aurora, Colo., was seeing a psychotherapist or psychiatrist in his university where he was a graduate student. She was a very senior psychotherapy director, basically the medical director for the outpatient clinic for mental health treatment for students.

And she was seeing him for some time before this tragic event…Lynne Fenton is the doctor in the case. Her specialty and what she has been mostly researching is schizophrenia.”

What has yet to be revealed is whether or not Holmes was taking medication for his schizophrenia, and whether he should have been committed to a hospital stay – whether he “wanted to” or not – if there were any signs of this possibility of violence.

Could Treatment Have Prevented the Tragedy?

This leads us to the issue of “Assisted Outpatient Treatment” well-covered by the Treatment Advocacy Center – so I will say no more about that in this post.

But there is also the issue of James Holmes’ family life. Continue reading Schizophrenia, James Holmes, and Hindsight

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Practical Advice: Treatment Advocacy Center

This post is for you if you need some clear, practical advice on how to be prepared for a mental illness emergency. The possibility always lurks in the corner, while we try to keep on eye on gratitude for the good days.  The Treatment Advocacy Center has an excellent page on this topic, with step-by-step instructions for keeping the monsters at bay by knowing we are ready for them.

I will send you there through this blog post by their Communications Director, Doris Fuller, who says:

We who love someone with a severe mental illness probably all have our own personal coping mechanisms for getting through the worry and fear and frustration of living with the impact of treatable but chronic brain disease. The demons retreat, but they never retire. For me, being ready for them is the first defense.

I suggest you read her short, poignant-yet-realistic post first, but if you’re impatient here’s the link to the Be Prepared for an Emergency page.

Like all preparation, this takes time – but will save you a lot more in the future. Trust me.

Thanks, by the way, to all of you who wrote to express concern about Ben and his “adventure” in a questionable neighborhood. Like Doris in the above blog post, I had my eye out for a stress-triggered return of symptoms, but luckily his reactions to the stress all seem quite conventional. The only “demons” were the ones I could see as well: fear of returning to that neighborhood, reminding us to set our home alarm and change the locks, some reluctance to be alone. I would feel the same way.

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Mental Illness Recovery: Four Cornerstones

Ben’s recent setback (and, fingers crossed, re-recovery) has cemented, in my mind, the “Four Cornerstones of Recovery”  in Mental Health.  Here I share them in in a short video for HealthyPlace.com’s YouTube Channel.

Attention must be paid to the human being, while making sure the physical balance is maintained by supervising medications.

And for the family? This reminder: education helps. Here, a link to an article about Family-to-Family, and its documented effectiveness:

Support Program Can Help Caregivers Cope with Relative’s Mental Illness


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In the Dark about Mental Illness? Great Resource

We have, at last, the official publication date for Ben Behind His Voices: September 15, 2011. It’s on Amazon right now for a peek, and my thanks to those of you who’ve told me you’re eagerly awaiting the chance to read more. My hope is that the book will help others by sharing our story, both the trials we experienced as and the hope we eventually found. Meanwhile, I hope this blog can continue the work of sharing useful information and resources while providing updates. So – in that spirit:

Just learned of a great entry on Psychology Degree.com

25 Q&A Sites on Mental Illness

It’s chock full of amazing links. Thanks to Patricia Duggan for sharing it with me.

Also, healthyplace.com (where I also blog about Mental Illness in the Family) is a terrific resource for many health issues, with a fine section on mental health.

There’s plenty of guessing where mental illness is concerned, I know. All I have to do is look at Ben’s current relapse to know that even some providers, unfortunately, do their share of guessing.  In some cases, it’s because research results are so contradictory, or budget cuts and legal issues create confusion.  In other case, as you know from this blog, much info is available just by taking the time to listen to the family and/or prior caseworkers. Continue reading In the Dark about Mental Illness? Great Resource

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Schizophrenia and Family: Walking the Tightrope of Recovery

Recovery in mental illness is possible, yes – but is often a tightrope walk for all involved: consumers, family, friends, providers.  To paraphrase Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, “Respect must be paid.”

This is an excerpt from today’s radio interview with Ray Andrewsen of WQUN AM in Hamden, CT, where he asks me about our family experience as schizophrenia developed in my son Ben.

Next Thursday, June 9, I’m honored to be the keynote speaker for Fellowship Place in New Haven, CT, one of many organizations providing much-needed support and community for those with mental illness. .

Eighth Annual Doctor Albert J. Solnit Memorial Lecture

Advance ticket purchase is required. Tickets are $25.00 each. To purchase tickets, please click on the link on the left or call Melissa Holroyd at 203-401-4227 x111. All proceeds to benefit housing and support services to adults who suffer from chronic mental illness.

more info: Hope to see you there if you can make it!

Fellowship Place to host our 8th Annual Dr. Albert J. Solnit Memorial Lecture: a discussion with  Author Randye Kaye, Thursday June 9, 2011 at 7:00pm, at the Whitney Humanities Center Auditorium of Yale University, 53 Wall Street, New Haven.
Join us for a conversation with Randye Kaye, based on her book “Ben Behind His Voices: One Family’s Journey from the Chaos of Schizophrenia to Hope”, to be published by Rowman and Littlefield in September 2011.  Kaye will share with the audience her experiences with her son who suffers from schizophrenia, how mental Illness affects the whole family and how they helped guide him on his recovery journey as he went from 7 hospitalizations to now 4 semesters on the Deans List at his school.
Kaye humanizes the experience of schizophrenia by including Ben’s point of view, through his poetry and other writings, and pays tribute to the courage of anyone who suffers with mental illness
Following the Author’s presentation, Fellowship will host a panel discussion with the audience and a coffee reception. The Panel will include:

  • Daniel M. Koenigsberg, MD, Former Chairman, Dept. of Psychiatry, Hospital of St. Raphael, Associate Clinical Professor, Yale Medical School
  • Selby Jacobs MD, MPH, Former Medical Director, CT Mental Health Center, Professor of Psychiatry, Yale Medical School
  • Allan Atherton: Treasurer, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Elm City, Past President NAMI/CT, Co-Coordinator, NAMI CT Sharing Hope Initiative
  • Randye Kaye, Author: ”Ben Behind His Voices: One Family’s Journey from the Chaos of Schizophrenia to Hope”, NAMI Family-to-Family educator, Radio broadcaster: NPR.

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