False Hope for Schizophrenics | Letters | Chicago Reader

False Hope for Schizophrenics 

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To the editors:

Your Jan. 27th issue had both a letter and an article, the former dealing with the value of psychotherapy (written by a woman who, I would assume, did not suffer from psychosis) and the latter about the trials and tribulations of a schizophrenic named Andy.

Karen Hoffman, the letter writer, makes some valid points, but let me tell you a story. In 1954, at the age of 18, my sister was diagnosed as a schizophrenic. Therapy never helped her--the Thorazine and Stelazine did, at least enough so that she could function and work. The problem was that she was always returned to our mother after being released from the hospital. Our mother has been dead since 1971; my sister has been in 3 or 4 halfway houses (gold mines for the owners); in 1972, she wound up homeless in Lansing, MI for nine months. She is now in a nursing home in a western suburb where she has become "institutionalized" i.e. she has a roof over her head, three meals a day, and free medical care. The "system" has destroyed her self-confidence and initiative. Therapy seems to me to be a rather expensive way to solve one's personal problems. If one has the money and feels the need, that's his decision. All I'm saying is that an entire industry has arisen in the world (not just America) that, for some people at least, is just a waste of time and money.

The story of Andy told me nothing new. Living with his parents was probably a mistake, but I know from personal experience that the emotional umbilical cord can stretch clear around the world. I know a guy like Andy, in his 30's and diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, whose only problem is that he's never been loved. If his therapist were to give him a big hug every time he saw her, I would be willing to bet he would be a different person. Trouble is, he too has become a victim of the "system"--he gets about $1,800 a month (from Social Security and the Veteran's Administration) and therefore has no incentive to even try to find work.

And as for psychoactive drugs, it's strictly trial and error. I know another diagnosed schizophrenic who once told me he's been on 21 different drugs over the last 25 years. He's now taking Thorazine, the drug he originally started with.

My advice to parents with babies and young children: give your kids lots of love when they are young and need it, but when they get to be teenagers, let them break away (as painful as that might be), become responsible for themselves, and make their own mistakes. If then they become emotional cripples or social misfits, you at least will not bear the burden of an undeserved guilt.

Tom Mitchell

N. Marshfield

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