This is a dialogue between the parents of a young person with a schizophrenic illness and the “professionals” – a composite of a number of “therapists”.
THEY SAID You feel guilty.
WE SAID We feel frustrated – our son needs help!
THEY SAID Your family has a problem; your family is a mess!
WE SAID Our son has a problem; we’re an ordinary family. We just want to help him
THEY SAID We want to show him how to live his life – to be independent.
WE SAID He was independent, until he changed – he just can’t be like that anymore.
THEY SAID How do you feel about him? You must hate him for his behaviour towards you.
WE SAID We would hate him, but something is wrong. We feel concern.
WE SAID Please communicate with us. Treat us like responsible adults; not the same as a disturbed 16year old.
THEY SAID Why are you criticizing us? We are treating you as parents.
THEY SAID Why do you think he tried to kill himself? Which one of you is he trying to hurt?
WE SAID He’s not trying to hurt either of us. He’s unhappy because something is stopping him doing what he wants to do.
THEY SAID We want you all to learn to live together. You must accept his behaviour, even if he stays in his room all day.
WE SAID We don’t mind if he lives with us or independently. Just find out what’s wrong with him, so we can all live a NORMAL life again.
(Diagnosed) – MANY MONTHS LATER
THEY SAID You are scapegoating – how were we to know he would become ill?
WE SAID You were negligent – you wouldn’t listen when we tried to tell you of his bizarre symptoms.
THEY SAID He has an inadequate personality. He’ll never cope in this world.
WE SAID He has a strong personality to have coped so well with this terrible illness and these distressing conditions.
THEY SAID The good news is – he has not got a withdrawn personality – we know; we’ve observed him for two weeks.
WE SAID He has not got a withdrawn personality – we know, we’ve loved him for sixteen years; it’s the illness!
THEY SAID The bad news is – we can’t get rid of the voices. We can in some cases, but not in his!
WE SAID Oh God! God help us all
THEY SAID You are angry because you are under stress – learn to relax, take up a hobby.
WE SAID We are angry because there are no decent facilities, only facile advice. Anyway, who will care for him while we relax and do our hobbies?
THEY SAY We will give you Community Care – stop them becoming institutionalized; teach them to look after themselves.
WE SAY He can look after himself – when he’s well. Give us proper facilities so they can have a life with dignity and purpose.
THEY SAY Learn to live without stress – no “High Expressed Emotions”.
WE SAY No-one can live life without stress. Having nothing to do, no future is stressful.
We’re sick of this pseudo-science – subtly apportioning blame onto carers.
It’s time we had money for research into neuro-transmitters; research with PET scanners and cleaner drugs.
THEY SAY Learn to accept it. Come to terms with it. Live a day at a time.
WE SAY Learn to accept the unacceptable! Come to terms with a life sentence, a living nightmare. Live a day at a time with no future – a lifelong bereavement!
I wrote this in 1986 – we found that at least one cognitive therapist and one consultant were just the same in 2005 – what’s it like NOW?
Irene Harris-group chair