(Russia) As if suddenly he was in a submarine

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Every third Russian has mental problems. What make them close?

On October 10, World Mental Health Day is celebrated annually under the auspices of WHO . According to the Serbian Center for Social and Forensic Psychiatry, every third Russian has signs of mental health problems. One of the most common diseases is schizophrenia, on average one percent of the population suffers from it. In the eyes of society, the diagnosis of schizophrenia is a sentence. But the majority of mental patients with competent therapy and psychological support could practically be no different from healthy ones. What patients and their families have to face, what support measures for relatives are being developed by the expert community in partnership with the pharmaceutical company “Gedeon Richter” – in the material “Tapes.ru” .

Transitional age

In the family of Muscovites Mikhailovs ( name changed ) – two sons. The difference between them is seven years. When the eldest Igor turned 15, that is, he entered the period of puberty, parents began to notice how the character of the son was changing. He reacted negatively to comments, began to argue violently from scratch, could leave home for a long time without warning. Could do some shocking things. For example, when arguing with friends, I poked a cigarette in my eye.

“He had behavior that is often unacceptable by society, but at the same time seems to be normal for a teenager,” says Elena, Igor’s mother. – We turned to psychologists, but they usually said: “What you want is a transitional age, a hormonal surge.” I internally agreed, because I really didn’t notice anything supernatural for my son, I thought that these were character traits, that he would grow up – and everything would pass.

“Character traits” were compounded. Igor graduated from high school, independently entered the budget department of the institute. He seemed to be a good student, but soon dropped out of school. He said that he would go to work and at the same time decide how to live on.

“He had a constant change of activity,” continues Elena. “He will take up one thing, will not finish it — he immediately clutches at something else.” On the one hand, it seems to be a normal phenomenon for any person, not everyone is able to complete it. But when it goes regularly – annoying. Get a job, it will take three months – leaves. On the new one, he again complains that there are bad people there, they want to hurt him, so he resigns again. If at home he didn’t like something, he could slam the door and immediately leave somewhere: to Irkutsk, Petersburg, Sochi …

Photo: East News

Initially, relatives did not attach much importance to this. Rather, parents, of course, did not like throwing and the endless search for their son. They sent him money to rent a house, collected things on the road. But they thought that these were complexities of character, you just need to survive this.

In the new city, Igor could live at most eight months. Everything ended, as a rule, with nervous breakdowns, the young man was hospitalized. They were diagnosed with depression and stress. Prescribed sedatives. And it all started in a circle.

Igor was only diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 24 years old. One day he called his mother and said that he had hallucinations. He constantly sees aliens and talks with them, and also tries to talk with birds. Parents called an ambulance.

According to Elena Mikhailova, when the official diagnosis appeared, on the one hand, it became easier: she stopped asking her son to “settle down”, “think about the future”, as she realized that this was impossible. However, the perception of the disease in both relatives and the patient himself was, and still remains, very difficult.

“At first, there was a feeling of a social vacuum, as if I suddenly appeared on a submarine,” Elena explains. – Much is still unclear: how life will now change, what needs to be done, and what should not be done. How to cope with difficult feelings, how to accept that the life of the family will never be the same, and the son will never be the same as he was known and loved.

Relatives, of course, ask doctors questions. But the answer is usually standard: “Everyone develops the disease in different ways. We must observe what will happen to you. ” As Mikhailova notes, in some psychiatric hospitals for relatives, trainings are held where experts tell how to better build relationships with patients with schizophrenia.

“You have to understand that families with a mentally ill relative have little money,” adds Elena. – The funds go to medicines, nurses, food – that is, to the most necessary. We found a community that supports patients with schizophrenia. There parents can get advice. And for patients there are many different events: circles, theatrical section. When you meet people with the same problems and talk with them, it is much easier to transfer your misfortunes.

Igor often lies in hospitals. It turns out from there almost healthy-looking person. But remission lasts no more than three months. Mainly due to the fact that he refuses to take medicine. If relatives insist, he says that they specifically want to destroy him. The diagnosis denies. Then a new exacerbation begins. He can communicate with flowers at home – all pots with plants are strewn with sweets, so Igor feeds them. It treats trees and bushes on the street – from the balcony throws groats and bread to them.

Home alone

Translated from ancient Greek schizophrenia means – “split, split thought.” According to the WHO (World Health Organization) definition, schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder characterized by impaired thinking, perception, emotions and behavior.

According to medical research, in the world, one out of a hundred people is faced with this disease. No one is safe from her. The mystery of the disease has not yet been solved by scientists, although there are many hypotheses. The main one – schizophrenia is caused by “breakdown” of genes, which can be inherited.

The more relatives suffer from schizophrenia, the higher the risk of the disease. It is believed that if one of the parents is sick, the child has a 10 percent chance of getting sick. For those whose twin suffers from schizophrenia, the probability of encountering this pathology is 50 percent. However, those who may not have “strange” ancestors in their family tree may also become ill. In addition to genes, among the risk factors for schizophrenia are an adverse effect on the intrauterine development of a child, stresses in childhood and adolescence, the social environment and so on. The most common age for starting schizophrenia is from 16 to 30 years.

Since schizophrenia is one of the most widespread mental illnesses in the world, the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), on the initiative of Gideon Richter, conducted a study of the social image of the disease.

According to a sociological survey, Russians are generally well informed about the disease – 20 percent of respondents said they are well aware of the disease and symptoms; 70 percent said they knew about the disorder in general terms; four percent said that people with schizophrenia are among their relatives. Using the results of the survey, you can compile the top problems that people with mental disorders and their families most often face. In the first place – difficulties with employment (this is noted by up to 40 percent of respondents).

Another problem is stigmatization of the disease in society. According to a VTsIOM survey, 38 percent of Russians are ready to sympathize with people with mental disorders, 34 percent feel sorry for them, 26 percent are afraid. Moreover, 38 percent of respondents believe that mental patients should be isolated from society. And 49 percent of Russians are generally convinced that schizophrenics often pretend to avoid criminal liability.

– In recent years, there has been a sharp negative turn of society in relation to mentally ill persons, they are considered outcasts, – said the vice-president of the Russian Society of Psychiatrists, professor of the Department of Psychiatry of the Faculty of Continuing Professional Education of RNIMU named after Pirogova Pyotr Morozov. – In a country where traditionally with great sympathy belonged to all the syrians, the wretched and the holy fool, where the mentally ill were honored and looked after, lived from ancient times at monasteries, to observe such a turn towards insensibility and lack of compassion is a tragedy.

VTsIOM sociologists have established a relationship: if the respondents in the environment did not have schizophrenia, then they are more likely to attribute negative traits to mental patients, calling them cunning, fickle, dangerous. Those who personally came across such patients called them vulnerable, sensitive and very creative.

One of the main social myths about schizophrenia is that patients are aggressive and dangerous. Because of this, “strange” people are trying to avoid. But, as psychiatrists say, people with schizophrenia, if they are treated, are not more dangerous than mentally healthy ones. If the disease is started, they really can become dangerous, but mainly for themselves. According to medical statistics, about 12 percent of people with schizophrenia commit suicide.

“My boy is not at all aggressive, he only wants to talk to everyone, he is curious,” says Elena. – Maybe, for example, go up to someone and try to help convey a heavy load. People, if strangers greet and smile with them on the street, perceive it strangely. And here – all the more, they begin to fear: what does he need this for? Some in the face can give. I can’t even send one son to the store, because I’m afraid for him.

And you will be treated

As Professor Peter Morozov explains, schizophrenia is still considered incurable. However, 25 percent of patients have a “long and persistent remission”, they practically do not differ from healthy ones. Another 50 percent are patients with an unstable state, their periods of remission are replaced by exacerbations. And the remaining 25 percent are the most difficult patients, whom treatment practically does not help. Usually they are in hospitals.

All symptoms of schizophrenia are divided into two groups: positive and negative. The first are obsessions, nonsense, speech disorder. They are called positive not at all because they have a positive effect on the patient, it’s just that these symptoms add new colors during the illness. Doctors attribute apathy and asociality to negative phenomena.

Medicine managed to cope with the positive manifestations of schizophrenia, but until recently, there were practically no drugs against social isolation, lack of motivation, and disorder of the volitional sphere. But, as psychiatrists explain, it is these manifestations of the disease that push up to 60 percent of patients outside of society. In 2015, a drug developed by Gideon Richter appeared on the US market. He simultaneously fights with both positive and negative manifestations of schizophrenia. In 2017, the drug began to be used in Europe. This year appeared on the Russian market.

“Of course, I dream that my Igor will someday enter a long remission,” the mother admits. “But … Sometimes I think about what will happen to him when we are gone.” Now the system of accompanied accommodation is actively developing. People with mental characteristics are waiting there, but not patients with schizophrenia. They are afraid even there.

Photo: John Birdsall Library / Diomedia

Educational program for mothers

In addition to therapy with modern drugs, socialization is necessary to restore patients with schizophrenia. And here the main role is played by the work with the patient’s relatives. Together with doctors and relatives of patients, the pharmaceutical company “Gedeon Richter” prepared a series of tips on how best to equip the most comfortable and safe environment for people with schizophrenia. At first glance, they are too simple and routine, but, as native patients say, at one time it was precisely this “routine” educational program that was sorely lacking. Lenta.ru cites extracts from the memo.

– Try to maintain the patient’s life at the level familiar to him before the diagnosis. In case of or as symptoms increase, be prepared to provide:

Home security

– Use unbreakable dishes and forks with rounded teeth; close sharp corners on furniture with special nozzles; buy clothes that are easy to remove / put on (over the head or with zippers); put a note in your outer clothing with a home address or put on a watch with a GPS-navigator; mount handrails for support, if necessary (for example, next to the bed, to make it easier to get up, or in the bathroom, so that it is convenient to hold on to them).

– Introduce aids into the patient’s life according to his symptoms.

– If the physical or psychological state worsens and it becomes more difficult for relatives to care for him, the attending physician may consider placing him in the hospital. If all available therapy is ineffective, the question of placing a patient in a specialized boarding school can be considered.

Life and household duties

– Explain to a relative what you can’t do (for example): turn on the gas yourself; go out without warning about it; take sharp and dangerous objects without warning.

– And what he needs to do (for example): regularly take medications prescribed by a psychiatrist; eat on time; observe hygiene; keep order in your room.

– If the patient shows negativity (makes “spite”), and you have not observed this before, you should consult a doctor with this symptom for a possible correction of therapy.

– Teach your loved one new and feasible domestic duties for him, for which he will be responsible. It can be: washing dishes, cleaning, washing, walking with animals, shopping at the store, etc.

– Do not forget to celebrate successes – this very motivates a person to continue active actions. Encourage a relative as was usually the case in the family before being diagnosed. Try not to distinguish him from other family members and not to focus on his illness.

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