Damaging diagnosis that affects the whole family


I would like to explain why I want to support this campaign against labelling by telling you about my experience as the child of a mother given the label 'schizophrenic'.

When I was about four years old, my mother had a 'breakdown' and was admitted to a psychiatric unit; she was in this unit for about 5 months.

I believe that her social situation was the main cause of this breakdown (as they say, a normal response to abnormal circumstances). She became 'ill' because she was under horrendous pressure. She had recently experienced the tragic death of her youngest brother, and just previous to this, her husband had been sent to prison for a minor offence. At this time my mother was looking after myself and my sister on her own with no financial, emotional, or practical support from her family or community.

Unfortunately all this happened in the early sixties when ECT was used; she was never the same mother I had known when she returned home. Since then she has been given a diagnosis of schizophrenia, which I believe she was given because of observations of her behaviour on the many further admissions to hospitals. I have never seen any evidence of this condition.

Mum continues to be prescribed medication for her 'nerves' and today is still on Lithium. If my mum had had the support and understanding she needed at the time from her GP and Psychiatric Services she would not have been disabled by the long term effects of this experience and of ECT. She has had to spend the rest of her life on medication with strong side-effects and was given this ridiculous label.

The medical profession has a responsibility to individuals and their families to consider an individual's experience in a holistic way and not purely as a 'medical condition'.
Presently the NHS trend is to offer CBT to those who present with emotional distress, which may help some people in the short term but I believe that it is really just a cost cutting exercise. I believe that practical support and quality Long Term Therapy is the answer to entrenched problems; it is certainly the route I have had to take to manage the fallout from my mother's on-going treatment.

I believe that 'Labelling' is a tick box exercise to 'fit in with' and support the psychiatric profession, but can ruin people's lives. We must move on and consider creative approaches and invest in non-invasive treatments that do not affect a person's health on a long term basis and the wellbeing of the whole family.

What about some research into the effects on family members when a family member is affected by a damaging diagnosis?