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Planning for the future presents serious problems for parents of people with significant disabilities; when those families are dealing with psychotic illnesses, the future is especially frightening. While it is impossible to deny that progress is being made, the simple fact is that our world, as it stands, has little desire to label people with mental illness as anything but crazy and dangerous.
When people suffering from mental illness receive intensive treatment in programs specifically designed for them, most of them do much better. Anti-psychotic medications are understood to provide the foundation upon which any other treatments can be added. These messages are in direct conflict with the message from journalist Robert Whitaker. Robert Whitaker does excellent work describing the egregious practices of the pharmaceutical industries. However, his extreme stance against the value of psychotropic medications is scary. Any parents of a psychotic son or daughter who heard his recent presentation in Vancouver would want to keep their child far away from the early psychosis intervention programs that offer the best hope for recovery.
As National Family Caregivers month comes to a close, some caregivers have reason to celebrate as their concerns are receiving more attention than ever before. However, it's a precarious time for some of us. The organization that families caring for people with severe psychotic disorders had created has somehow slipped away from us.
A recently released report on human rights, mental health and addictions from the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) ventures into areas that they have no expertise with: actual treatment for serious mental illness. By doing so without proper understanding, they confound the topic.
Current anti-stigma campaigns emphasize that most people with mental illnesses aren't violent. This is very true. They also point out that people with mental illnesses are much more likely to be the victims of violence rather than the perpetrators. Also true. But the research is clear that people with untreated psychosis are a greater danger to themselves and others than people who aren't psychotic. People with untreated psychotic disorders have a higher rate of violence than do the general population.
The annual convention of the U.S.-based National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) just finished educating its 1700 participants on the latest research relevant for people living with severe mental illnesses.And what's the situation in Canada? Families here certainly aren't being led to advocate for the most helpful education programs for people living with psychotic disorders.
Even though Schizophrenia Awareness Day is limited to May 24th, Canadians are exposed to education about schizophrenia all year long. Every time they read a gruesome news article about it, or have a difficult encounter with someone with an untreated psychosis, they receive confusing knowledge. It creates the kind of image of severe mental illnesses that crusaders against stigma would like them to forget.