KARACHI: Discovering that your loved one suffers from a mental illness and then dealing with the discovery can be challenging for many. It could lead to trauma, neglect of one’s own daily routine as well as severe depression.
At a seminar held at ‘The Recovery House’, a psychiatric rehabilitation centre, presenters stressed the methods of coping with the mental illness of a loved one. The two-hour event titled When Someone You Love Has Mental Illness was dedicated to the caregivers of people who may be suffering from mental illness.
Recovery House Director Naheed Khan introduced the facility as a non-profit organization committed to promoting recovery from mental illness through a collaborative, client-centered program. She described the facility as a psychiatric rehabilitation centre ‘with a difference’.
The main speaker of the seminar was Dr Uzma Ambreen, who has been associated with Pakistan Association for Mental Health since 1998. She took over as clinical director at the institute in 2014.
Dr Ambreen spoke at length about the complexities that a family has to face when a member becomes afflicted with a chronic mental illness and advised the audience about strategies to accept and handle the situation. She called it a ‘crisis’ that needed to undergo a ‘family recovery process’, which can help the caregivers and the patient alike.
The speaker described all the stages that the family has to go through after discovering that a loved one is mentally disabled, whether it is schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder or anorexia nervosa. Shock and denial are the foremost reactions. According to the doctor, denial and fear does not instantly vanish even when the treatment begins; it is a recurring feeling and may never fade away completely. The family experiences a sense of loss similar to losing a loved one, as a mental disability may change a person completely.
Dr Ambreen also gave guidelines on how to come out of the situation calmly and effectively. She encouraged the audience to hold ‘family interventions’ in order to set limits for the mentally ill family member and help him or her deal with the illness.
A topic extensively discussed at the seminar was social stigma. Psychiatrists explained that mental illness has to be treated the same as any other chronic illness such as diabetes or cancer. Mental diseases are also biological, just like other illnesses; hence, should be dealt with as such rather than by labelling or isolating the patient.
Dr Ambreen expressed her dismay at how the society stigmatises people with mental diseases and looks down upon them.
Contrary to stereotypical beliefs, she pointed out that less than 10 per cent of the people suffering from mental illnesses engaged in violence.
The audience for the seminar was based on all age groups and asked questions ranging from personal queries to behavioural methods of treatment.
The audience also agreed on forming a support group in order to help each other with the recovery process of dealing with the mental illness of a loved one by using The Recovery House as a platform.
Originally Published at