A few years ago, I consulted with a colleague about a man I worked with who was having a hard time accepting that he might have schizophrenia. He was a deep thinker with a very rich and interesting past. His life had become increasingly restricted due to symptoms of his illness which he would not acknowledge. My colleague suggested I give him a book to read that might help him come to terms with his diagnosis and the benefits of seeking treatment The book is Diagnosis: Schizophrenia; A Comprehensive Resource for Patients, Families and Helping Professionals. I found it to be such an informative resource that I have since recommended it to other people diagnosed with schizophrenia, as well as family members and other professionals.
Diagnosis: Schizophrenia contains all the information you would expect from a practical guide on a serious health condition, including chapters on diagnosis, theories about the causes of schizophrenia, medication and other treatments, coping with symptoms and side effects, and related topics such as vocational rehabilitation, hospital stays, accessing benefits and services, and the impact of co-occurring substance use.
Diagnosis: Schizophrenia is written in plain English for the average person. The best thing about the book and the reason I recommend it to people struggling to accept their diagnosis, is the 35 first-person accounts that are woven throughout each chapter.
Chapter Five – “Why Me?” – begins with the story of Beth, a 19-year-old college freshman who was hospitalized and put on anti-psychotic medication after she lost touch with reality. In her first-person account Beth writes…
Nobody in my family has ever had a mental illness. I was a good kid. I always asked, “Why me?” I never thought it could happen to me. I still don’t know. I just think it’s not fair.”
Beth’s personal story is followed by a brief discussion of the biological causes of schizophrenia. Then we hear from six more people with lived experience of schizophrenia and their personal views of why they are affected. This approach, combining personal accounts with reliable information from professionals is not just an effective way of delivering practical information to affected persons and their families. It also addresses their real fears about being diagnosed and labelled “mentally ill,” by letting them know that they are not alone and showing them how other people in similar circumstances have learned to manage their illness.
In the chapter “What Will People Think of Me Now?” we can read an extended dialogue on the topics of stigma and whom to tell about a diagnosis. The multiple perspectives from people who have lived through the experience should be a comfort to others facing similar concerns.
There is also a chapter on “How the Brain Works,” which explains the neurobiological foundations of schizophrenia. This short and easy to understand chapter lays the foundation for the chapter on medication which comes later in the book. The non-threatening combination of factual information and personal stories may help some resistant readers reconsider their reluctance to comply with treatment.
Diagnosis: Schizophrenia; A Comprehensive Resource for Patients, Families and Helping Professionals is not suited to every person diagnosed with schizophrenia. Although the writing is very clear and easy to understand, many people with active symptoms of psychosis find it difficult to read a simple newspaper article, let alone a 171-page book on the subject of their diagnosis. Other people do not relate to books and have a learning style that is more suitable to a visual or auditory form of presentation. But for someone who likes to read and is curious to find out more about a diagnosis of schizophrenia and all it entails, this book in an excellent guide worthy of inclusion in the RtoR Family Resource Collection.
RtoR Family Resource Collection
Diagnosis: Schizophrenia; A Comprehensive Resource
Columbia University Press, 2002
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