Schizophrenia is the most disabling of all the major mental disorders. Schizophrenia is an illness that interferes with an individual’s ability to think, feel and to receive and understand sensory information. It is a severe mental disorder in which a person cannot understand the difference between real and imaginary.
An individual’s behaviour may also be disturbed. The most noticeable symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, thought disorder and behaviour considered unusual for the person. Fortunately, such schizophrenic symptoms can be controlled with medication.
The less obvious symptoms such as loss of interest, energy, warmth and humour do not presently respond well to medications. These latter symptoms cause considerable obstacles for the schizophrenia sufferer and their families.
Surekha Yadav, was recently admitted in a rehabilitation centre for Schizophrenic patients. Her son said, “We hospitalise her only when she gets severe attacks of hallucinations. She is diagnosed with the disease around six years ago. For a year, her condition was very bad and at that time she needed specialised care. But after that she stays at home and we have seen that she has improved a lot.”
Schizophrenia affecting around one per cent of the population. The patients typically experience remission of symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions.
Dr Rohan Jahagirdar, Pune, said, “Schizophrenia is associated with stigma and fear in our society. Once the person is diagnosed with schizophrenia family suffers from an emotional setback. Support and intervention of the family are extremely crucial for the recovery of the patient. It is a chronic illness and few patients may not recover. If the family neglects follow-up it affects the patient as they go into relapse. The family will have to bear the trouble until the recovery of the patient.”
“There are cases of separation once the person is diagnosed with schizophrenia. But, the family support is very imperative,” he added.
Schizophrenia rehabilitation attempts to increase an individual’s level of functioning. The aim is to build upon strengths and assets while reducing deficits.
“There are many schizophrenic patients who are disowned by the family members and could be found on the streets. They are called wandering mentally ill. People should be sensitive to them. There is a three-pronged strategy in dealing with them. First is to identify such patients, second is to kill the disease and third is to reintegrate them with the family. It is the role of NGO’s which is crucial in this case,” said Jahagirdar.
The goal of rehabilitation is to nurture the strengths and life skills that the patient with schizophrenia requires to live as independently as possible in the community. The ability to enjoy a quality of life comparable to that of others is also foremost in rehabilitation.
Dr Hamid Dabholkar, Project Coordinator of Parivartan, an NGO which offers a community-based rehabilitation to schizophrenia affected patients, said, “In 2012, we had conducted an extensive study, which proved that community-based rehabilitation can reduce disability among patients and can increase their productivity. There are very few who can afford institutional care and we have seen that if the patient is living in the family has more chance for faster recovery. The patient should not feel dehumanising at all in the entire process.”
While Dr Amar Shinde, Psychiatrist from the city who runs Jagruti Rehabilitation centre for schizophrenic patients, said, “There are three types of supports which are needed – emotional, financial and medical. The most significant is family support. If the family does not understand the patient, it then might become difficult for the patient to recover.”