Stop insisting that people with schizophrenia take their medication (or else!)

Best selling author Pete Earley reposted a recent New Yorker article written by a woman who lost her brother to homeless and then to suicide. It’s a familiar (and very sad) story that echoes the heartache that families encounter trying to figure out how to help our relatives and coming up short most of the time. I followed Pete over to his Facebook page and left the following comment:

Rossa Forbes What if, rather than kicking his son out of the house because he wouldn’t take his medication (and therefore precipating his long spiral into homeless and death) the father in this article had taken a different tack by siding with his son? Yes, Taking His Side by researching what the medications do, how efficacious they are, and finding out why people don’t like to take these drugs. Then, he could have said, “I understand the way you feel, and let’s try some alternatives first, of your choosing. I don’t like these medications, either, but at the very least, if, in the end, you agree to take a single medication, I will make sure that it is at the lowest dose possible. I will become your ally, not your adversary.” The author has got it right when she complains about the fact that educating ourselves doesn’t necessarily result in better outcomes: “In our family, we did all of this, and more—we took classes, consulted experts, conferred with lawyers, and met with people with schizophrenia who had rebuilt their lives. But applying what we learned was rarely simple. Though our efforts often helped us enormously, they did not, in the end, do much for Tom. I wonder, still, what could have saved him.” Had her brother an ally in a close relative who was willing to work with him (as difficult as these things are), much of the misery he was in could have been avoided. I say this as a mother of a young man with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, whom we kept at home probably far too long for his own good, and it was a strain, to say the least, but at least we knew where he was and we could work at building better communication skills and becoming allies. Rossa Forbes, author, The Scenic Route: A Way through Madness

7 thoughts on “Stop insisting that people with schizophrenia take their medication (or else!)”

  1. Hi Rossa,

    [Is it possible to make a direct link to the piece? I had to search around to find the correct article.]

    Boy, I’m with you. The family seems to canvass every possible alternative except the most obvious (but by no means easy; I get it!) alternative, which would be to find some way of supporting him at home.

    And did I miss a part? Did the sister look into Soteria-Alaska? Or was it already closed by then? At any rate, I don’t see how ‘tough love’ seemed like it was going to work.

    Rock and hard place. Such a sad and common story. 🙁

    I look forward to the day when people stop thinking that pills cure ills. I swear, people would rather eat nails than read pharma inserts, or click online and read information on drug side-effects.

  2. Late responding. Thank you for the ideas and suggestions of what the father could have said. I will use those very sentiments in my current circumstance. And though we search and search to educate ourselves to help a loved one, the final release for recovery remains elusive. So the journey continues.

  3. Hi Rossa,
    Thank you deeply for all your writing and shining light on the healing available for schizophrenia that is outside the box that parents can get pulled into. Our son is recovering and I am deep in research . They say a mother’s love for their child is higher than a trained FBI agents who searches for answers !
    Thank you for not giving up you help us there too.
    Can you share the contact for Elaine Erika as we live in the US and so resonate with what she has to offer.
    Grateful to hear back from you ,
    Deep thanks ,

      1. I am shocked at how similar our stories are ( well , shocked and not shocked ) I am now right past the journey to the garden shed and Appreciate your story so much . . I would like to be in contact with other mothers who are on the same journey. . How can I do that ?

        1. Hi, Tara,
          Krista McKinnon teaches a powerful online course about how to communicate with, and care for our relatives in the best possible way. Through her course you will meet other parents in similar circumstances and share personal experiences. Krista also has a forum for “graduates” that enables people to keep in touch. I can’t speak highly enough of the service that Krista provides.

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