Archive for June, 2010

Since I was interviewed by BBC Radio 4’s All in the Mind on June 15th and 16th (click on the name to listen online), there has been a big response from people, both buying the book (Schizophrenia: Who Cares? – available for purchase on this site if you click on “books” in the sidebar) and sending me messages, telling of their own troubles and how similar their experience has been to mine. Some of the tales have been devastatingly tragic and it is hard to know what to say. But my experience is that all of us who find ourselves in this same boat share pretty much the same experiences, the same griefs, the same terrors, the same foolish moments of hope, the same anger and frustration at the almost total failure of the “care system” as we know it in this country to provide for our sick children and relatives.

I don’t think the failures are due to malice – at least I hope not – but rather to an ill-thought-out, ill-coordinated and ill-funded system. Mental illness, even severe mental illness, is not on the whole life-threatening but it is most definitely life-destroying: it ruins people’s ability to maintain ordinary, expected relationships like friendship, marriage, parenthood; their ability to hold a job, of any kind, never mind one that is commensurate with their intellectual capacity or education. It ruins their ability to maintain a decent, attractive, comfortable home for themselves; to go to a shop and buy even cigarettes without the risk of some serious misunderstanding or misadventure.

People suffering from schizophrenia need help, not empowerment. They need to be looked after and by and large they are not. Professional care workers have their hands – and minds – tied by the idiotic rhetoric of political correctness: can’t do anything without the consent of the “client.” It is all about the inviolability of people’s rights, about not using language that might possibly be considered to consign people irredeemably to categories of inferiority by calling them fat or bald or, even, ill. For illness has been abolished, people! It is now all about well-ness; we are all more or less well and certainly not, Heaven forfend, ill! Recovery is the name of the game. And if, like me, you think recovery means getting back to the status quo ante and that, therefore, it does not really apply where schizophrenia is concerned, you will probably, like me, be referred to the website of the Social Care Institute for Excellence (www.scie.org.uk/publications/positionpapers) where you will learn the error of your ways: “recovery” means, in effect, if I say I am not ill, then I am not.

Yet another splendid theoretical excuse for not intervening and helping the one category of patients who really do need to be taken in hand, assertively and enthusiastically,  and helped.

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