The main thing society needs to do now in the wake of this terrible tragedy is concentrate on finding a cure for brain disorders such as schizophrenia. There is not nearly enough money allocated for research on schizophrenia, which has been described as “the most devastating of all diseases.” And we also need to find ways to reduce the stigma so that people seek treatment for themselves or loved ones before the ill person becomes totally overwhelmed by his/her symptoms. We must understand that those living in a delusional state sometimes need to be taken by the hand to where they can receive medical care. Because diseases of the brain are where our thoughts and feelings originate, sufferers often do not have insight into realizing they are not well.
It is possible that in the violent culture that we now live in, violence is becoming more and more reflected in the psychotic symptoms of an ill person’s delusions. And television shows and other visual portrayals of wholesale carnage cannot be helpful.
The following paragraph is from an article written by a mother of an 11 year old boy:
A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7 and 9 year old siblings knew the safety plan — they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me….
Because of my book [The Ghosts Behind Him] I’ve had mothers phone, telling me about similar situations such as this one. It’s hard to believe that a child could be dangerous but it does happen. I tell them that if they are afraid, it is time to ask for help. Anyone with a brain disorder needs medical help -just as a cancer patient does. And like a cancer patient in an acute stage of his illness, a mental patient in crisis needs immediate medical attention.
When acute symptoms subside, mental patients must receive medical follow-up on an ongoing basis. There is no cure for schizophrenia. Like cancer survivors their symptoms are merely in a state of remission.
If no known medical treatment is effective and patients remain a danger to themselves or others, they should be cared for in a stress-free, monitored environment. Not in the family home and definitely not in jail.
Treatment needs to be effective. I am grateful that my son’s schizophrenia was finally controllable on a wonderful medication called “Clozapine.” He had been on one called “Risperidon” when he became totally overwhelmed by hallucinations and delusions. Anti-psychotics are not all alike. They have different properties- and need to be taken in carefully monitored doses. Risperidone (I learned later) can “cause agitation” in some patients, but works wonders for others.
P.S I should have added that -although there is no cure as such – some people do manage to recover from symptoms of schizophrenia.