Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

5 Things I Learned About Serious Mental Illness While Caring for My Brother

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.

GREAT article - thanks for sharing!

Actually, its a bit gloomy. I didn’t realize so many didn’t recover.

I think the recovery today is better then it was before. People with schizophrenia are recovering and growing old with meaningful lives. There is new research to look at. If someone is on medication and still having psychosis problems, it could be the meds. Someone with sz or any mental illness must be up to date on new drugs, New therapy and support from people who are the caregivers. Families must really get educated on the illness, seek therapy and classes themselves. There is a lot of people on here with sz that are living independent and meaningful lives. Definitely check out the diagnosis category and recovery category.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Very truthful information. If everyone had this knowledge, we would get more realistic support from friends, family, neighbors, and legislators. Things are better in some ways for people with SMI today, but we still have so far to go! Hallelujah for those who are independent and successful, but we must never forget those who still have not found an answer.

The statistics aren’t that bad. 25% make no MEANINGFUL recovery, and 25% make a complete recovery. For the other 50%, there is some measure of meaningful recovery and they are able to resume a fulfilling life if they have support. Those without support are more prone to frequent hospital stays. What I think it tells us is that there is a critical 50% of people with this diagnosis that CAN make something good from their lives IF they get support!

Yes, that’s true. The current stats must include a lot of older generation people with sz who didn’t get treatment in time to stop it from progressing. Younger people have better odds. Let’s hope it continues to get better for everyone.

Stigma is still a big problem. Average people don’t know much about science and the television media which most people watch does a lousy job of education and spends most of its time in stereotyped sensationalism.

Recovery is sometimes pretty hard to define… Working a full time job is NOT necessarily a good definition of recovery for everyone. Having meaningful and useful accomplishments IS.