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A Mother's View

A member of one of our family groups recently gave a talk on stigma at a rehabilitation conference in South Africa. She and her husband have three sons who developed schizophrenia in their early twenties. We quote from her talk:

Of her second son she says: "He was able to complete his studies and has been in employment since January 1994. He is a valued member of a work team, where nobody knows about his problem. If they found out, he would lose his job. He lost his job two years ago after disclosure of illness. It destroyed his dignity. For a long time we had to nurture him to rebuild some self-esteem ....

"My third son, then 23, had the benefit of effective medicine and nurturing support right from the start. He has been in full remission since 1994. He was, after eight months of TLC (tender loving care) and total rest, able to return to his studies. He obtained his degree with distinction, being the top student in one of his majors, for which he received a prize. Last year he completed a year-long course and won the top student trophy, gaining an average of 93%. Very occasionally, when stressed, he things he hears voices, suffers some paranoia or feels deep guilt about unimportant things. Then likewise I, or one of us, nurture him through. He has recently found a job which he will start soon. His biggest fear is exposure of his illness. He writes 'I cannot disclose my true story. I sit convicted of the heinous crime of mental illness. Maybe, one day, you will all understand. For now I must simply hide, but with the hope that I will be found, trying to pass as a human being who can make a valuable contribution. At least I know that life can and does continue "after schizophrenia".'"