One of my friends sadly suffers from schizophrenia. It developed during his late teens, and unfortunately he was in a household with parents who struggled with their alcoholism and so weren’t as supportive as they could have been. We all wonder whether it would have made a difference to how bad he got if there had been more of a support system for him in the early stages, whether from family, friends, or mental health professionals spotting the signs early on.
At one point before he had been diagnosed, while he was still working as a security guard (not a great job for someone on the verge of a diagnosis of schizophrenia – too much time alone isn’t great for people who are starting to doubt their own mind in terms of working out what’s reality and what isn’t), he had plenty of access to finance for a car, and bank loans. After his diagnosis, and subsequent loss of driving licence, he found himself in financial difficulty as he lost his job also – and so took out a significant loan (£10,000 or so). He started needing to leave the house because of the stress of being with other people and not being sure of reality, and went on long walks, or trips to London and stayed out all night. One of these nights he buried the £10,000, in cash. To this day he doesn’t know where he buried it.
Thankfully he met and fell in love with a girl who really takes care of him, chases up mental health teams for support, tells him when he’s reacting to something which is only happening in his mind, and ensures he takes the correct drugs at the correct times, and helps him manage transitions from one drug to another (which at times requires hospitalization due to the side effects of new drugs). Although he still has good days and bad days, he’s being looked after and protected from the symptoms getting any worse.
It does no help for him to now reflect back on what could have been, but it may be a significant and important lesson for others who are facing the realization that they or someone they know may be suffering from undiagnosed mental health issues.
So what can you do if you, or someone you care about, is struggling with their mental health?
Look Out for Early Signs
If they become withdrawn, or show increased drug and alcohol use, disinterest in activities, disinterest in looking after themselves, changes in appetite, or moodiness, be aware that these could be early signs. Even if they don’t want help, and you may worry they’ll hate you for it, it’s better to try and get professional help as early as possible, as early diagnosis and management could mean it’s a one off experience rather than something which troubles them for life!