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Schizophrenia Treatment - Housing and Self-Help Options

Rashmi Nemade, Ph.D. & Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Housing

A less obvious but quite vital therapy consideration for schizophrenic patients is assistance with housing. Patients in the midst of a psychotic episode become disoriented and unable to care for themselves or carry out any sort of responsible activity such as working or paying rent. Many patients end up unemployed, or very minimally employed, and relying in full or in part on government sponsored disability payments for income. There is also a tendency for patients to become involved in substance abuse as they come into contact with other patients who abuse drugs or alcohol. The net result is that some patients become quite disabled and require assistance with housing or become homeless in a hurry. The vast numbers of homeless mentally ill people in any major city, many of whom are schizophrenic, are a testament to this problem. Different communities address this need for safe humane housing for the chronically mentally ill in different ways with varying levels of success. Social workers and case managers employed through city government and community mental health centers help patients to find and maintain housing options. Access to safe housing is a basic need of any schizophrenic patient, and without it, their illness will be worse.

Self-Help Options

Once their illness has stabilized, people with schizophrenia can benefit from self-help efforts. Becoming part of a mental health self-help group for schizophrenia patients is a good option for many people. Where such groups exist, they are frequently organized through local community mental health centers. Groups provide an opportunity for positive, mutual support and fellowship to persons with a diagnosis of schizophrenia or related disorders. Often a mental health professional can direct a patient toward a self-help group. Alternatively, some networks of groups have online presences. Hearing Voices Network is a self-help organization for people who hear voices. It was founded by five mental health workers, but has since somewhat distanced itself from the psychiatric profession through its alternative philosophy. It can be accessed at http://www.hearing-voices.org/. The Paranoia Network is a similar self-help organization in the United Kingdom. In addition, the Self-help Source Book Online (http://mentalhelp.net/selfhelp/) is a wealth of local, national, and international self help resources. There are also online-only community forums such as those provided by Schizophrenia.Com, or Mental Earth (http://www.mentalearth.com).