The Search for a Paranoid Schizophrenic Brother March 21, 2012Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Uncategorized.
In this weekend’s Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine, there is an article about a woman who spent years looking for her brother, a paranoid schizophrenic (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/pacificnw/2017692663_pacificpmissing18.htmlic ) In the article, she talks about the years of pain and suffering she and her family underwent as their family member suffered through his illness. When she finally tracked him down, he had been dead for years.
Unlike “normal” illnesses, paranoid schizophrenics have a symptom that makes it almost impossible to treat without the intervention of mental health professionals. That symptom is called Anosognosia (I wrote an entire blog about this symptom). It means that because the person suffering from the illness has no insight into their condition, they won’t accept treatment for it. They don’t seek help or accept help because they genuinely don’t believe they’re ill. This unique symptom is why I have labeled this condition the worst disease in the world. All of the pain and suffering this family endured is the result of this symptom- to say nothing about the suffering paranoia has on the afflicted person.
In my duties as the phone message taker for my local NAMI affiliate, I come across at least two phone messages a week from loved ones looking for answers to this specific dilemma. They can’t get help because their full-grown loved one doesn’t recognize they are ill. Any talk about getting them help results in deep distrust and escapism. It is frustrating to have to tell those callers that unless their loved one has been declared “a danger to himself or others” by a designed mental health professional, there is nothing that they can do about their illness-struck family member. It is heartbreaking to hear those stories week after week.
It all comes down to the fact that our laws don’t recognize anosogonia as a symptom that should be an exception to the current law. In the case of that symptom, the law requiring the person having to demonstrate that they are a danger to themselves or others by a third party before they can receive help should be abolished. If this law were changed to allow for intervention before the person ended up in prison, the world would be a better place. The jail and prison populations would be substantially less, and we would be able to stop wasting money on these incarcerated mentally ill people who failed to seek treatment.
Instead of making this exception to the law, the jails and prisons are full of people who didn’t receive the mental health care that would have turned them into productive members of society. The cost of their incarceration is enormous, averaging $40,000 per year. This doesn’t include the lost taxes and spending that would have been generated had the person been a productive member of society instead of a drain on society. What I don’t understand is why nobody else perceives this problem the way that I do. It seems so cut and dried.
If the law could be changed just for people suffering from paranoid schizophrenia to acknowledge the anosogonia symptom, thus allowing people to get help, it would do the world a lot of good.
Had this symptom been acknowledged in that sister’s attempt to get her brother help, the story might have ended without her brother’s death. It’s too bad things didn’t turn out. Maybe in the future things will be different. It could have saved a life and make the quality of life better for that younger sister and her family