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the parents quickly found that their sleep schedules were subject to the shrilling screams that lasted throughout the night, and could only be calmed - though calm was a relative word for them - by constant visual stimulation.
By the age of 3, the young parents thought they had an intellectual prodigy on their hands. Young Jani, boasting a 140+ IQ, could already read as well as calculate division and multiplication, all in her head.
As the years progressed, Jani’s behavior became more and more disturbed. She began
to harm herself as well as her newborn brother. She refused to interact with other kids and exhibited behavior that could only be characterized as bizarre.
Jani is suffering Child Onset Schizophrenia. It is among the rarest of mental health conditions.
Typically the age of onset in males is somewhere in the range of 15-25, while females will
usually wait much longer: their first onset usually occurring in the range of 25-35. There is no known cause, but the disease does appear to be hereditary. There is also no cure.
Once schizophrenia has taken hold, pharmacotherapy to ameliorate the positive
symptoms of schizophrenia and thus containing the more troubling aspects of the
disorder are the only line of defense we have. Schizophrenics suffer significantly reduced lifespan and are much more prone to taking their own lives than the general population.
The case of Jani is fascinating given her age. Her parents, after observing her bizarre behavior, her report of what seemed to be hallucinations, and her affinity to attack her younger brother, them, and even herself, took her to the usual round of specialists who were too often stymied by the unusual symptomatology. Jani was given diagnoses of bipolar, autism, ADHD, and the like, but no diagnosis was accurately describing what she was experiencing. She
was prescribed Risperdal (an antipsychotic) given injections of Thorazine (another antipsychotic) and a bevy of other medications that proved ineffective.
It wasn’t until a day that she went wild, tried to choke herself, and then jumped
out of her second story bedroom window that she was admitted to a psychiatric
facility at UCLA and formally diagnosed with schizophrenia that she finally was
able to get proper psychiatric treatment.
The reason I’m telling you all this is because it is yet another example of the
failure of our field that this poor family searched desperately for answers from
rounds of doctors before they were able to find a treatment facility that
specialized in the type of mental health condition that she was experiencing.
Our discipline - to this point - has been completely reactive to mental health. In
fact, our entire society is not only purely reactive, but most believe that if
you are seeking mental health treatment then you must be “crazy.” The lack of
education over the simplest of psych knowledge in the general population is
In the case of Jani and her schizophrenia, given that there is no cure there is
currently little hope that she will be able to lead a normal given the severity
of her symptomatology. There are some low level schizophrenics who are capable
of living independently, and some even go on to live prosperous lives.
Taking care of you mental health should be as fundamental to the overall care of your
life as the healthy food you eat, the exercise you get, and the doctors and
dentists that you see regularly to make sure you are staying ahead of any
potential health problems that could develop.
For any mental health problem, there is a very large window - sometimes a couple of
years - between the onset of behavioral symptoms and the warranting of a full
psychiatric diagnosis. But as that window remains open, and that person is not
helped, very serious psychological damage can be done. And that damage can lead
to immediate health problems - in that the introduction of cortisol in the brain
due to stress further damages the brains capabilities - and in the future due to
anhedonia causing these people suffering to not take care of themselves in the
way that they should, thus subjecting them to a host of preventable health
conditions, the most notable and lethal of which is heart disease, the number
one killer in America.
Mental health checkups is something that must be integral to our normal self care, and
must be implemented now. The more we wait, with the window of mental illness
wide open, the more we run the risk of adversely affecting our overall health
with needless and preventable conditions, and the January Schofields of the
world - along with the normal kid with a mere adjustment problem - will continue
to suffer more than they should.
Pursuit of Happiness
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