Living with a Brain Disorder
5 Things I Learned About Serious Mental Illness While Caring for My Brother
by Katherine Flannery Dering, MFA, MBA | March 18, 2015
Over the past year since I published my memoir about caring for my brother Paul, who suffered from schizophrenia, I have encountered several misguided but firmly held beliefs that get in the way of understanding our fellow humans who suffer from a severe brain disorder. Here are just a few.
Probably the most common misconception is that if people with serious mental illness (SMI) would just take their medication, they would be all right. Unfortunately, this is not true. For 32 years, my brother was loaded up with thousands of pills and subjected to all sorts of talk therapies and counseling, and still he alternately thought he was James Bond, Clint Eastwood or a Mohican Indian (as in, the last of…). He was much worse when he went off his medication, but even on it, he could not hold a normal conversation.
Of people diagnosed with schizophrenia, about 25% never achieve any sort of meaningful recovery. About 25% have a couple of psychotic episodes but then recover completely. Inbetween, some people manage to make a life for themselves as long as they get good support from their family and community, others are in and out of hospitals. All of these people need our support in getting outpatient treatment and effective counseling and other assistance.