Saturday, March 13, 2010

ABC 20-20 presents harrowing report on childhood schizophrenia


On Friday, March 12, 2010, ABC 20-20 presented a one hour special on childhood schizophrenia. The main news story is by Jay Schadler (the main reporter in the story), Claire Weintraub and Elissa Stohler, along with Elizabeth Vargas and Chris Cuomo. The news story link is (web url) here.

The show focused on two families, one with a thirteen year old girl with two younger sisters, with the oldest girl having several hospitalizations. During a crisis, the mother has to call hospitals to find a bed, and she winds up with 3 weeks at UCLA Medical Center. The father’s health insurance benefits for psychiatric benefits run out, and she has to come home. After several more crises and huge debts, she unexpectedly improves.

One of the sisters goes to a Halloween party as “Alice in Wonderland”, pretending to have fallen through the rabbit hole. But her sister is the “mad hatter” and is in the hospital. The 20-20 report might have been inspired by the recent Walt Disney movie.

Some people could become catatonic, and some grow up to be homeless adults, 25% of whom may be mentally ill.

Schizophrenia can start at any time in life, and sometimes begins in young adulthood. It is particularly tragic in childhood. It may occur in families with no history of mental illness. In some adults, it may happen after head injury, either from accident or even contact sports (as demonstrated in the film "Prodigal Sons" reviewed March 12 on the movies blog).

Elsewhere on my blogs, I have sometimes discussed my “hospitalization” in a psychiatric unit at NIH (National Institutes of Health in Bethesda MD, Clinical Center) in 1962 (an NIH researcher is interviewed in the report). The men were mostly those who had been forced to leave college for “mental health” reasons (in 1962 that could include homosexuality) but the female patients, because of the way they were selected, were much less intact or stable.

Schizophrenia is not the same thing as autism.

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