While vacationing in Florida last week, I dropped into a Barnes & Noble and headed straight to the psychology and body/mind/spirit section where the bright yellow and black cover of Schizophrenia for Dummies immediately caught my eye. Flipping through it convinced me that the title is, indeed, correct. This book is for dummies, or at least will not further your ability to overcome schizophrenia if you buy what it is selling.
To begin with, the cover invites the reader to “learn to help their loved one live a happier, more productive life.” How patronizing. Note that there is no mention of the person with schizophrenia learning to help him/herself take charge of their own life. Using the term your loved one when it comes to schizophrenia may at times be necessary but it has the chill of a body on ice.
The inside of the book subtly reinforces the idea that your relative is, and will continue to be, dead/managed/dependent. The authors, Irene Levine, Ph.D. and Jerome Levine, M.D. are profoundly indebted, of course, to members of NAMI. The book trots out the usual stuff about myth busting such as the myth of split personality, the myth that people with schizophrenia are violent, the myth that bad parenting is the cause. All of these so-called myths have a basis that is conveniently forgotten these days.
There is a cartoon towards the end of the book that sums up the bias of the NAMI-indebted authors towards instilling a take charge of your own life perspective. An aging father is talking to his son in the son’s bedroom. Why don’t we talk to your doctor about adjusting your medication, and then see about building that underground railroad to all your friends’ homes. Humor is needed, but the message is not encouraging. Dependent aging child, aging parent. How long is that child/man going to be living at home in the same bedroom he grew up in? The cartoon inadvertently raises the question, if the medications are really all that effective, as the father seems to believe, how come the kid is still delusional?