“I was in America for a long time, I used to own a company there, do you know?”. He asks this as he stands there. I don't know his name, but I know what he is fighting. Schizophrenia.
That is a fact, but that does not capture the true nature and scope of what it is. It is a disorder that, if left untreated, can turn an IIT graduate into a barely functioning person. It's scary and beyond comprehension. But, over the past few months, I have understood that all is not lost after a diagnosis of schizophrenia.
What is Schizophrenia?
It's a serious mental health disorder. It affects how a person perceives and feels about the world around them. It affects 3 out of every 1000 people in the country. The symptoms of the disorder include hallucinations, delusions, emotional flattening, social isolation, aggression, and more.
Symptoms like hallucinations and delusions can occur in episodes, causing severe distress to the individual and their families.
This is what I knew about Schizophrenia. But, nothing prepares you for when you meet a person with the disorder. In many situations, they are like any of us, but their speech, their thoughts, and sometimes their actions are disconnected from reality. In many cases, their symptoms can cause them to act in ways that are dangerous to themselves and the people around them.
Schizophrenia Rehabilitation: How is it helpful?
I asked this question to a counselor with whom I had previously interacted a little bit. She explained it in quite some detail. She spoke about a person who was violent and delusional towards their family members.
She explained how the person was brought to Cadabams’ schizophrenia rehabilitation centres and had undergone treatment for over two years. I asked her if that person had improved.
She just smiled and pointed to a person who was chatting away happily with a fellow resident. I couldn’t believe that he was the same person the counselor just described. He seemed genuinely happy and engaged.
Does rehabilitation of schizophrenic patients completely change a person overnight? Probably not. There is no magic cure for the disorder. But over time, with consistent efforts, and social support, rehab for Schizophrenia can help individuals make a significant recovery. A testament to that exists before my very eyes each day.
It is not an easy process, not for the individual, not for the family, not for the counselors. Sometimes, individuals can relapse, they may go through difficult periods and episodes. Families too face a lot of distress, staying away from their loved ones and watching them battle the disorder. Sometimes the individuals can turn physically or verbally abusive, the brunt of which is borne by their caregivers or the professionals conducting the schizophrenia rehabilitation program.
Psychosocial Rehabilitation for Schizophrenia: The difference
Psychosocial rehabilitation, sounds like a fancy term right? But it can be a life-changing experience for many. Rehabilitation, I have noticed, focuses on the holistic recovery of the individuals.
Many a time, I have seen recovering people reading books, watching TV, playing team games, and so much more. Psychosocial rehabilitation involves the person and their families in the recovery journey. The stay also includes schizophrenia counseling, psychotherapy,
I remember this one incident. There was a Ganesh Chaturthi celebration where all these families had come to witness the celebrations. I saw a parent shedding tears, and spoke to them. They revealed that their daughter was dancing in one of the performances, and they were immensely proud of how much she had progressed.
On some days, working at a rehabilitation center and conducting patient counselling for schizophrenia feels like just work, but on other days, it means so much more. There are separate modules for CBT and Schizophrenia that really help me include the recovering individuals in a meaningful manner. To see these individuals laugh, play, and live their lives to the fullest is a privilege that very few get to experience. It also opened my eyes to the fact that individuals with mental health disorders are pretty much like any of us. The only difference is that they face different and more difficult challenges as compared to the rest of us.
Management of Schizophrenia: What it means
Schizophrenia is a difficult disorder to cope with. Families, individuals, and everyone involved face a lot of issues. Recovery from schizophrenia however is possible, with the right kind of treatment and support. Rehabilitation helps in the overall improvement of the individual while giving their families respite from the duties of caregiving.
With proper medication management, regular and effective psychotherapy, family therapy, group therapies and so much more, rehabilitation helps individuals turn their life around. While Schizophrenia is a disorder that does not have a cure as of today, recovery is possible. Managing the condition and watching your loved one turn their life around is an experience like no other.