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Our teams helping people live well with schizophrenia

24 May 2019

Half the clients of our community mental health teams based at Hawdon Street have a diagnosis of schizophrenia or a similar disorders, yet the condition is still often misunderstood.

For Schizophrenia Awareness Week, we spoke to manager there, Sanjeev Choudhary.

"Imagine if one day you couldn't trust your brain. You weren't sure if what you were thinking were your own thoughts. You couldn't trust that what you just saw or heard really happened. What if one day you weren't sure if your best friend or your sister were really who they said they were? Our mind can be our biggest ally or our worst nightmare," Sanjeev explains.

Sanjeev says that stigma is still an ongoing issue for our clients with schizophrenia.

"Films and television programs have stereotyped people with schizophrenia to be violent and scary maniacs. Which, when we look at the individual, their symptoms, their history and experience, is simply not the case. People living with schizophrenia are often highly vulnerable and sometimes scared, particularly when experiencing an acute phase of their illness," he says.

While schizophrenia is complex, Sanjeev says that with the right treatment, people can live happy, healthy lives.

"No one person with schizophrenia is the same. Therefore, no one treatment plan is ever the same. By reviewing the client as an individual, not as a statistic or diagnosis, mental health professionals can work with their clients to ensure everyone is living their best version of their life."

People with schizophrenia experience disturbances in their perceptions and their thinking. They can experience symptoms that are predominantly paranoid (such as feeling suspicious and fearful), disorganised (some people have so many thoughts at once that they forget to pay their bills, do the shopping or even why they got on the bus), or catatonic, where they have no thoughts or are so lost in their thinking, that they stop functioning all together (catatonic). Living with schizophrenia can also lead to difficulties with mood, behaviour, thinking ability, social and occupational functioning.

The community teams that operate out of the Hawdon Street Clinic can do a great deal to help people manage schizophrenia.

"Ensuring our clients are able to live their own lives, happily and safely, with the least restrictive interventions is our clinic's primary goal," says Sanjeev.

"Given the varying complexities and needs of those diagnosed with schizophrenia, the teams at Hawdon Street work hard to establish individual care plans, that take into account each person's needs, preferences for treatment and recovery goals. Clinicians at Hawdon Street work closely with their clients to address a variety of areas, including housing, finances, physical health, social rehabilitation, legal, studies, careers, volunteer work," he says.

"We also work closely with our client's next of kin, family, carers and friends, because their love and support of our clients is priceless." he says.

"Whilst health care professionals and service providers are doing their best to support and manage the client, it is the loved ones and family members who were there in the beginning and will be around long after the discharge. The most important thing anyone can do, when supporting someone with schizophrenia is to look after themselves first!

Are you supporting someone with schizophrenia? Some services to help carers look after themselves:
  • Your own G.P. - Don't be embarrassed to access your own mental health supports - ask for a mental health care plan and start talking with a psychologist.
  • Carers Link North
  • Mind Carer Helpline (1300 554 660)


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