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Family and Care in the Community
By Mark Ellerby

(Page 2 of 2)

Another large area is family support during visits to doctors and psychiatrists, etc. This is important because the turnover amongst medical personnel is quite high and they do not have the time to ponder anyone individual case for long nor to fully read the case history. Family will, as a result, probably know a lot more than the doctors and social workers involved and, in my case, have often been the only constant element throughout an illness which has varied a lot through fifteen years of problems. As a result I rely quite heavily on having someone to assess the trend as compared to the past.

There is also, I think, a professional stereotype that parents worry unduly — especially mothers — and press the panic button at the first sign of trouble. This is a tricky one, but can be overcome in the following way. The first thing to do is indeed to call for a doctor at the first sign of trouble and to say why regardless of what the doctor might think. My family has had me sectioned several times. When I got to hospital, it became very apparent to the doctors why. From that moment on they paid very close attention to my mother’s opinions and a social worker even remarked “No one knows you like your mother!” Schizophrenia is always taken seriously by doctors and repeating episodes are very common too, so ringing doctors should not be seen as over reacting.

In the end, there are probably a myriad of other ways in which families help the patient outside of hospital including all the ways we have and need to rely on them during normal life. The emotional aspects, feeling wanted, being loved are the most profound and important. Loss of this aspect through stigma or whatever just creates a void here and makes the negative experience of the illness worse. Again, there are so many potential positives. I have been ill for 15 years, but never once have had depression. This, I think, says a lot about the importance of family to mental illness.

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