Dear Dr. Beal: My mother is schizophrenic and a drug addict. When I was younger, my siblings and I had a rough childhood. Since I was the oldest of five siblings I had to take care of everyone. We went to live with my grandmother at one point and were in foster care. I was able to go to college and get married and have children of my own. The problem is my son is eighteen now and appears to be acting a lot like my mom. Is it hereditary?
Dear Reader: Congratulations on your current success and achievements. Mental health disorders affect many people and no family is immune. Mental health disorders are common, both in developed nations like the United States and in other countries throughout the world. Research indicates that schizophrenia affects over 2.4 million people. The exact cause is unknown, but it is believed to be a combination of family history (genetics), environmental factors, and certain chemical imbalances in the brain that are risk factors for developing schizophrenia. Growing up as a child it may have been difficult, especially if your mother’s illness was impacted by substance abuse usage. If her diagnosis was correct, she may have had an exceedingly difficult time understanding herself which prohibited her from parenting. Let’s look at schizophrenia, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th edition (DSM5). Schizophrenia causes psychosis, which means people who have the disorder have trouble understanding what’s real and what’s not. The disorder is described by its features. Because of its complexity, there isn’t a single cut-and-dried definition. Also, to complicate things, schizophrenia has five subtypes (paranoid, disorganized, catatonic, undifferentiated, and residual), and each of these is experienced uniquely by individuals. In response to your son’s symptoms, yes, as mentioned, there is a hereditary component. However, the transmittal is not fully understood by psychiatrists and researchers, according to research conducted by the world health organization (WHO). For example, parents and children share 50% of their genes but the risk of getting schizophrenia if one has a schizophrenic parent is only 6%. The following is the risk of developing schizophrenia based on a known relative with schizophrenia:
- General population – 1%
- First cousins / uncles / aunts – 2%
- Nephews/nieces – 4%
- Grandchildren – 5%
- Half-sibling – 6%
- Sibling – 9%
- Children – 13%
- Fraternal twins – 17%
- Identical twins – 48%
The highest risk factors appear to be among identical twins which result in almost fifty percent, yet still not at one hundred. If your son is experiencing some mental health issues, please seek professional help to obtain a diagnosis. Depending on his age, and category criteria met, and type of symptoms presented will impact his diagnosis. It may not be what you are thinking and may be something different. Lastly, to address what you and your siblings faced can/could be still traumatizing, especially if you didn’t understand that your mom was mentally ill. Counseling also would be beneficial, allowing you to work through unresolved issues of abandonment or grief.
Dear Dr. Beal: I’m about to get out of jail. I am a 26-year-old man. I caught my case when I was 20. I know it will be hard. Any suggestions?
Dear Reader: Social reintegration is support for offenders to re-enter society following incarceration. Because offenders are detached from their community, and they have had to adapt to the structure and regiment of prison life, there are known challenges once released.
For example, ex-offenders are expected to find work and housing to live once they are released from jail. However, employers and apartment owners, are often reluctant to “take a chance” with former prisoners. For many of the offenders, the available jobs are the ones that no one else wants to do, and the compensation is often minuscule. A plus is a fact that you may have been able to gain some education and occupational skills. Some employers are open and will give you a chance once you explain your situation. Be prepared to answer questions and be honest.
There is assistance for offenders with social reintegration; consider looking into a reentry program in your community. Going online to do your research about such programs would be a good start.
There are diverse types of reentry programs for adults, including therapeutic communities, reentry courts, employment, and work release programs, substance abuse treatment programs, housing/homelessness programs, programs targeting special populations like sex or violent offenders, and programs targeting females.
Dear Dr. Beal: I am an emotional mess right now. I am single and I am working from home. All I can think about is dying alone from COVID-19. I have begun drinking on a daily basis. At first, it was a glass of wine but now I drink two or three bottles a day by myself. My father was an alcoholic and my mother abused drugs. This was always my fear of becoming like them but I can’t seem to stop. Please help.
Dear Reader: I am glad that you reached out if you feel that you are approaching a problem area in your life. Your anxiety about COVID-19 is real and I want to validate your feelings. If you are watching the news and viewing the numbers of people who are affected daily this may impact your anxiety. If you are wearing a mask when you leave your home, practicing social distance, and washing your hands, your prospective of contracting the virus is decreased. There are other ways to handle anxiety in a healthy way that does not put you at risk of developing a substance abuse problem. People usually drink or use drugs in order to not feel a certain way. Please examine why your intake has increased to your current level. Drug and alcohol abuse fall in the category of mental health disorders. Yes, alcohol is a drug, and when a problem arises, there is treatment. Currently, you may not meet the nine categories for criteria for a substance use disorder.
- Hazardous use of a substance
- Presence of social and/or interpersonal problems secondary to substance use
- Neglecting of major roles and responsibilities secondary to substance use
- Advancing tolerance (declining levels of mind-altering or “high” from a substance)
- The escalating quantity of use
- Repeating attempts to quit or reduce substance use
- Increasing use time and resources to acquire substance
- Physical and/or psychological problems secondary to substance use
- Features of withdrawal from a lack of substance use
If two are more of the above criteria are met, a person would be diagnosed with a substance use disorder. For individuals who meet the criteria, the severity is given from mild to moderate. Having mentioned your family history, you must educate yourself and become aware when a problem exists. You may have to decrease the input of news media for a while. Focus on reading or think about a new hobby or exercise. Reach out to your friends and family members and let them know you are feeling isolated or lonely. Don’t suffer in silence. You will be able to determine if you need to seek professional help; especially if you are not able to function in your day to day activities.
Please find Resources Below:
Family Support Group for a family with Mental illness Location Sessions
Due to COVID, the meetings will be temporarily online.
Katy – Online
1st and 3rd Sunday, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
To Register Contact: Angelina Hudson or email, email@example.com
Fort Bend County – Online
2nd and 4th Thursday, 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
To Register Contact person: Pat Sumner (281) 384-3156 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Museum District – Online
2nd and 4th Tuesday, 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm (no meetings in July)
To Register Contact: David Muegge at email@example.com
Downtown – Online
Every Tuesday, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
To Register Contact: Kimberlynn Luke at firstname.lastname@example.org
Texas Criminal Justice Coalition — This site offers a wealth of resources to assist people upon release from confinement. There is help for both adults and juveniles. The services include food, housing, employment, health care, counseling, and adult education programs.
Houston Food Bank — The Houston Food Bank has a program called Serving for Success, which is a collaboration that trains offenders for living wage jobs while they volunteer at the Houston Food Bank. This program offers training in culinary arts, warehouse certification, and workplace literacy.
Houston Health Department (HHD) — This City of Houston department helps those who were previously incarcerated with a Community Re-Entry Network that provides a network of resources and linkages nearby.
Goodwill Houston — Goodwill Houston has two programs that help serve those who were previously incarcerated. The first is the Incarcerated Veterans Training Program (IVTP). This program provides employment services to veterans who are currently incarcerated and are within 18 months of release or have been released from incarceration in the last six months. The second is Civic Justice Corps (CJC) which helps formerly incarcerated individuals ages 18-24 coming out of the juvenile justice system reconnect with their communities through community service and educational opportunities.
If You Have Questions Connect with me!
“Good Mental Health Equals Mental Wealth”