Mis Communication!



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THEY SAID    The good news is – he has not got a withdrawn personality – we know; we’ve                               observed him for two weeks.

WE SAID         He has not got a withdrawn personality – we know, we’ve loved him for sixteen                           years; it’s the illness!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






One thought on “Mis Communication!

  1. I think we’ve been lucky to a degree with our schizophrenic son’s treatment, but we still hear a lot of these statements. They talk a lot about encouraging him to be independent, as if it’s us holding him back. It’s the illness making him dependant…some days doesn’t know what order to put his clothes on, I wish they’d see that instead of some neurotic mother they think is trying to micro manage her son’s life.


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