The journey till this blog seems like a stroll down a quaint tree-lined, dewed-leaves strewn forest path where the wind blows a tad towards the rougher drift sometimes. There is a lot that we have learnt from each other; a million other little tidbits still remain.
Getting to know Puzli personally forced me to tear off the distantly contemplating mask donned by the field of mental health, and delve deep into the view from the other side of the fence. It forced me to experience the experience of mental illness. I reviewed my perceptions, reviewed the knowledge I had acquired. My process of learning using this two-way perspective has been astonishingly dynamic and continues to be increasingly enriching as the pieces of the puzzles slowly seem to fall in place.
As I continue to revise and hone my basic conceptions of mental health, I thought it was finally time that I responded to Puzli's questions raised in this blog.
- I start from the blog titled A new hope (for everyone). Puzli had raised a question about the age of onset of schizophrenia, and what could be constituted as early-onset schizophrenia. The usual notion shared among many health professionals (and I was one of them) was that for schizophrenia, onset in the early or mid-teens would be considered as early onset. But as it turns out, a very early onset would be somewhere below 8-10 years of age. I believe there are quite few cases of florid psychosis with onset that early. You can read a true life example here. An early onset case would develop into full-blown psychosis in early-to-mid teens. The usual trend is for fragmentary occurrences of hallucinations and delusions in early teens and a gradual build-up of these unnatural experiences to florid psychosis by late teenage or early adulthood. This latter experience, which Puzli also went through, would come in the gray area, and most mental health professionals would hesitate to term it has truly early onset.
- In Confronting confrontations , Puzli spoke about the stigma towards people with mental health problems from mental health professionals. I contend that a strong stigma does exist against psychiatric patients. And ironically, people who treat the patients themselves (?un)wittingly stigmatize. I can see some of the reason for this. Psychiatrists and psychologists mostly see psychiatric patients who are at the peak of their episodes of mental illness. Continually facing these patients as a necessary demand of our work sometimes makes us bleak about the possibility of recovery from mental illness. And therefore the skeptical raise of the eyebrow when we come across a patient with a severe disorder like schizophrenia in full remission. Am I trying to justify the attitude? Nah. Merely thinking of reasons for the behaviour. Fine it exists. But do we make peace with the fact that just because you are in contact with severely disturbed individuals, you adopt this cynical attitude to the possibility of a cure, and twirl your holier-than-thou lip upward while you pat yourself on your back for having acquired your 'coveted' degree in mental health? Nah. Because you are trained to understand the symptoms of the person you are treating without passing a personal judgement on him/her. Trained to separate the person from the illness. More on the stigma in a later post.