3 Schizophrenia Treatment Tactics for Mental Health Awareness Month 2015

Patient Expert

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  I wanted to focus on an overview of schizophrenia treatment and recovery. In a lot of ways, things have changed since I was first diagnosed in 1987. Yet in some ways things are the same.

Research your treatment options with diligence either for you or for your loved one's care.

Back in 1987, I was shunted into day programs that were little
more than babysitting services. See my Shareposts about cognitive remediation
and social skills training for improving functioning and setting goals.
One option is an Intensive Psychiatric Rehabilitation Treatment program or IPRT. (See my SharePost on Zucker-Hillside IPRT in New York City for info about this type of treatment.) There, the patient sets a goal with a 12 to 24 month completion date. I'm a big fan of using an IPRT if you're newly diagnosed.

See a primary care doctor as soon as you're diagnosed to get weighed and establish a baseline weight and to get your sugar levels tested. You might need to get your blood tested more often than once a year. Anyone taking Clozapine needs to get regular blood testing for agranulocytosis, or a lowered white cell count, a possible side effect of this drug. See my SharePost on becoming a proactive patient.

Attend a support group to get feedback and encouragement and information.

For families of loved ones, NAMI hosts family support groups and the 12-week Family-to-Family education course. Dial 800-950-6264 to find the name and telephone number of your local chapter that will host these options.

For peers, NAMI hosts peer support groups and the nine-week Peer-to-Peer education course. In this course, you create a relapse prevention plan. You also create a psychiatric advance directive which gives your health care proxy (agent) the power to tell your treatment team the care you would like to receive if you are incapacitated and unable to tell the team on your own.

In it, you can specify what drugs you will and will not take, as well as prioritize the kinds of treatments you'll accept to take you out of an agitated state to quickly calm you down.

(See my SharePost on the stages of emotional response to trauma that are talked about in Peer-to-Peer along with information about the major mental illnesses, their symptoms and how they're diagnosed.) I taught Peer-to-Peer twice as a peer mentor and I recommend this course without
reservation.

See my SharePost on the top 10 questions to ask your doctor. You should be able to assess whether your doctor or other treatment provider believes recovery is possible.

I heard from a retired social worker who had lunch with other practicing social workers. She told them the clients of the agency she worked for recovered and did great things. The other social workers didn't think people could recover from schizophrenia. They looked at her like she had two heads when she told them people could recover. This was circa 2014.

Remember: you're paying good money to your mental health providers for their
services. If they're not "all in" to getting you to recovery you might have to research finding treatment team members that do want only the best for you or for your loved one.

I'll end here with this: most of the drugs (called atypicals) that treat schizophrenia can lead to weight gain, thus you could be at risk for diabetes and heart disease. Luckily, not every drug causes weight gain. For a number of people, a drug like Geodon or Latuda or Abilify might not cause weight gain. You should consult with your psychiatrist about this. This month's slideshow will feature tips for medication management.

Related SharePosts:
Detailed overview of schizophrenia symptoms
Overview of negative symptoms in schizophrenia

Detailed information about anosognosia, a schizophrenia symptom
For Family Members:
Family members forum: always be hopeful
Family members forum: the serenity prayer
Family members forum: helping a loved one
Six succession planning strategies for family members

For Individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia:
Optimism and hope for successful treatment outcomes
Setting treatment goals for schizophrenia recovery
Measuring recovery gains in schizophrenia treatment
The triangle of mental health