‘ Psycho’, ‘ Psychotic’, ‘ Lunatic’ etc are words that we are used to hearing and reading in movies, books, amongst our family and friends etc. However, how often do we stop to think about what these words really mean, and whether they should be used or not?. The often derogatory and disrespectful words above are commonly used to describe a health problem called psychoses or we also use the term ‘ Schizophrenia’ to refer to the same.
So, what is psychoses?
Psychoses is a serious health problem that affects one’s thoughts, perception, emotions and behaviour. It is becoming increasingly common in Sri Lanka, and it is difficult to say what exactly causes it. There can be a multitude of biological, psychological, environmental and social factors that can cause psychoses, and it can happen to anyone from any social background. It does not affect only people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, it affects everyone.
How do I know if my loved one/friend is affected by psychoses ?
Ask yourself the questions below.
- Have there been significant changes in my loved one’s behaviour?
- Does he/she appear to neglect usual responsibilities related to school, work, home and social activities ?
- Does he/she appear to be overly agitated, confused and aggressive?
- Has his/her personal hygiene, grooming etc been neglected?
- Has my loved one developed fixed false beliefs that are not shared by others in your family, community and culture?. Does he/she seem to be suspicious of others, and often act frightened?
- Has my loved one talked about hearing voices that are not really there or seeing things that no one else seems to see?
- Does he/she seem oblivious to the fact that they may be experiencing mental illness?
Key messages to caregivers
- If you have noticed one or more of the symptoms given above, seek medical help early. Early treatment often leads to positive outcomes for the individual. Psychiatrists can be consulted in most private and government hospitals.
- Your loved one is not ‘ crazy’, ‘mad’, or should not be put in the ‘loony bin’. They have a health problem, which can be managed with appropriate treatment and care. The above words are derogatory and disrespectful, and contributes to existing stigma and discrimination. Everyone must be treated with dignity.
- It is not your fault or your loved one’s fault that they are experiencing a health problem.
- Do not attempt to convince your loved one that their beliefs or experiences are nonsensical and unreal. Be supportive, and do not collude with their perceptions and beliefs.
- Do not laugh at or ridicule your loved one due to their illness. They need your love and support.
- Ask about suicide- ask early and ask often. Asking can help save a life.
- Provide a conducive environment, with minimal stress, and adequate social support. Do not criticize or be hostile towards your loved one.
- Help them have a healthy lifestyle with adequate sleep, exercise, and good dietary habits.
- Help your loved one avoid alcohol, and other substances including prescription drugs.
- Comply with recommendations made by your loved one’s doctor about treatment, and it is important that medication is taken as advised by a health professional. Do not start new medication or stop medication without consulting your family member’s doctor.
People living with psychoses can lead very productive and fruitful lives with proper treatment and management. They are capable of engaging in a job, studying, and contributing to society. They can engage in social activities and can be included in weddings, family outings, and other community events. People experiencing psychoses are not dangerous. Isolation does not help. No one likes to feel left out.
Caring for someone with psychoses can be difficult and painful. It is of vital importance that you take care of yourself. Take breaks, engage in activities that you enjoy, and seek support by talking to those close to you. You are not alone.
Need to talk?
Sumithrayo – 0112692909 between 9am-8pm.
CCC Line- 1333 between 9am-9pm.
Shanthi Maargam- 0717639898 -24hrs.