We are pleased to announce that the World Fellowship for Schizophrenia and Allied Disorders (WFSAD) has now merged with the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH). This site will remain active for the forseeable future, serving English, Spanish and French speakers. We hope you will continue to visit the site and to contact us when necessary.
A vehicle for WFSAD's established programs will be the WFMH Center for Family and Consumer Advocacy and Support. This Center will represent consumer and family interests. We hope that as it develops it will become a powerful symbol to inspire caregivers and consumers around the world. Please visit this Center regularly as we build the site for the use of consumers and families.
At present (2011) the guidebook Mental Illness and Suicide a Family Guide to Facing and Reducing the Risk is available to download from the WFMH site.
It is hoped that WFSAD programs such as the Reason to Hope family education tool and Families as Partners in Mental Health Care guide for professionals will become avalable on the WFMH site during 2012.
About Serious Mental Illness
Schizophrenia: Schizophrenia affects people from all walks of life, usually young people between the ages of 15 and 30. Not everyone will experience the same symptoms, but some symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hearing voices, are common to many. Schizophrenia alters the way people think and feel, so that perceptions may be changed and thinking can be disturbed. This is very disabling for them and very distressing for their families, who often become the primary caregivers.
With modern medical treatment, opportunities for rehabilitation, and the support of family and friends, schizophrenia need not be as feared as it was in the past. Some more information can be seen in the first 3 Information Paper under Publications. Here is #1.
Click here for more information on: Schizophrenia.
Depression: A depressive disorder can affect your whole self, from the way you eat and sleep to how you feel and think about yourself. Some of the main symptoms of depression are: depressed mood; diminished interest in life; insomnia; fatigue; weight loss/ gain; diminished concentration.
Depression can affect a person at any time in his life from adolescence or youth to advanced age. It may be of short duration, or continue for months or years, or it may appear episodically at different times during a person's life. Some people fully recover, while others may suffer throughout their lives.
Click here for more information on: Depression.
Bipolar Disorder: The disorder is one of severe mood changes from depression, excessively low mood to mania, excessively high mood. It cannot be compared to normal changes in mood experienced by most people. It can be very destructive, causing disruption in relationships, loss of work, financial difficulties (it is often associated by excessive spending). People may experience either mania or depression for many weeks or months before they change. In other cases, called rapid cycling, moods swing daily and are very difficult to deal with.
In some cases manic or depressive symptoms can be accompanied by psychotic symptoms.
Click here for more information on: Bipolar Disorder.
Stigma and Discrimination
Stigma and discrimination against people with schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses was identified as the number one issue for families.
Stigma is based on ignorance and stereotyping , and leads to acts of discrimination. It effects every aspect of the lives of people with serious mental illness and their families.
Click here for more information on: Stigma and Discrimination.
How Families Can Help
The importance of family involvement in care has been well-documented (see Ian Falloon's bibliography of 22 studies, which all show the patient benefit), and includes (6)
- Decreased rates of hospitalization & relapse;
- Enhanced adherence to treatment choices;
- Increased rates of recovery;
- Decreased involvement with the criminal justice system; and
- Savings to the mental health system.
Families can help by learning about the illness, symptoms, and signs of relapse. Depending on the situation, you may be able to keep track of appointments, medications, side effects in a journal so you and your relative can look back and understand what works and what doesn't. Encourage participation in hobbies, support and social groups. But most of all, be supportive and let your relative know that you are there for them.
Support for Families
Family members caring for those with serious mental illness often find themselves becoming a nurse/counselor/advocate/crisis worker/home-care and income provider all rolled into one (5).
1. Stigma, Isolation, Lack
of Emotional Support and Recognition
2. Lack of Information, Services and Policy
3. Health Decline
If you are a family member caring for someone with a mental illness, it is important to take care of yourself as well and to seek the support you need. You may seem support through local groups and through or ensuring that you are able to participate in social activities and take time for yourself. Managing stress is challenging, but crucial for all families caring for someone will a mental illness. Be sure to go to our Publications section and read the Information Papers there. Of particular interest for your own health is pamphlet #1.
"The road ahead is long. It is littered with myths, secrecy and shame. Rare is the family that will be free from an encounter with mental disorders or will not need assistance and care over a difficult period. Yet, we feign ignorance or actively ignore this fact."
-Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of the World Health Organization in 2001