Schizophrenia is an illness that is largely misunderstood and can lead to ostracization from the community and even family. Feelings of paranoia, isolation, repeated mannerisms and actions, depressive and occasionally suicidal thoughts are among the symptoms. But it is treatable and you can get help.
On this World Mental Health Day organizers of an event at the Mental Health Welcome Center sought to draw attention to the battle against schizophrenia.
We spoke with Nurse Augustina Elijio, Deputy Director of Health Services for Nursing.
“Today is a celebration of World Mental Health day, focussing on the theme: ‘Living With Schizophrenia.’
It’s very important, it is vital, that the community at large know what is Schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia, which is one of the most devastating mental conditions, is usually discriminated against. It is stigmatized. When persons in the community look at schizophrenics mumbling [to] themselves, having hallucinations, eating out of garbage, being very unkempt, they’re ready to label, to abuse, to not be supportive of these persons.
When schizophrenia, like any condition, like diabetes, like heart conditions, it’s a disease. It has a cause. It’s treatable. It has it’s signs and symptoms. So it is only fair that these persons be treated, be respected like any other persons with a medical condition.”
Lady Kathy Esquivel is a former president of the Mental Health Association of Belize and its current secretary. She has first-hand experience with schizophrenia, being a primary caregiver to a now-deceased relative.
She explains in the context of Andrea Herbert’s drowning death earlier this year the importance of family appreciating the importance of tackling mental illness as soon as signs appear.
“When someone has a chronic illness, it’s probably best not to wait till after hours to go to an emergency room, because we recognise that that [in] the emergency room often they have gunshot wounds, they have serious accidents. There are clinics open all day.
So what we want to encourage family members to do is; this is a chronic illness, the person that unfortunately had this episode, and I’m not assigning any blame, but had she been in a clinic environment where you have specialised nurses, it might have been easier vto deal with.
Basically, families need to all the support they can get, so that they better know how to manage the illness.”
AndreaHerbert had gone for treatment at the KHMH and was turned away, disappearing into the night thereafter. She was thought to suffer from anxiety disorder and severe depression but the KHMH says it does not offer psychiatric service except for acute episodes.
The Mental Health Welcome and Resource Center in Belize City on Vernon Street hosts persons with mental disabilities and offers social support but Esquivel says authorities need to move forward into providing assisted living for affected persons.