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How should I cope with my schizophrenic wife?

Wednesday, 13 June 2007
Answered by: Dr. Ashu R. Gandhi
Consultant Psychiatrist
Adult Mental Health Program, Eastern Health
Australia
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Q. My wife has been suffering from schizophrenia even before we got married 10 years ago. We had a child 2 years later but the problems of my wife were concealed. I am suffering the paranoid behaviour and aggression of my spouse from the beginning and I brought this to the notice to her parents, but they never disclosed anything due to over affection. Till about 3 years ago, she got massive episodes, which occurred when she was with her parents. She was hospitalised and diagnosed as schizophrenic and medication was started. The doctor said that the problem was chronic since she had it from a long time. I then realised that this marriage was fatal, as her parents did not disclose the issue even after the marriage. Now the situation is worse and her relapses are occurring frequently. Medicines are continuing as per doctor's advice. Now my daughter and me have understood the situation and she is afraid to live with her mother without my presence. Being a civil servant, I am in deep depression and think of my social status, personal life and my daughter's future. I am deeply thinking of divorce. What are the legal supports available for me? Is there any remedy to correct my wife's health completely? She has suspicions of infidelity and abuses me a lot. Please advise.

A.  You are right - the presence and persistence of symptoms leaves many wondering as to the best solution for the person suffering and also for their own selves. There are no ready-made answers to what is the best solution. Each solution has to be individualised and tailored according to ones circumstances but with overarching principles. The issues to be always considered are:
  1. The stigma of mental illness needs to be dealt with acceptance, treatment, and support from professionals.
  2. Living and caring for a person with mental illness can be quite draining, but withdrawing from the care can be equally, emotionally devastating for the loved ones as you are just physically away, but not mentally.
  3. Divorce also does not enhance social status.
  4. Divorce and separation can be a major stressor and lead to further complications in the illness process.
  5. If compliance to medication were good, it would be worth trying some new anti psychotics or even Clozapine under the expert advice of the consulting Psychiatrist.
Remember the maximum help for individuals and families with mental illness comes when individuals rise above personal circumstance and do for the society. In fact if you are in an important, responsible position you may be in a position to contribute further to the eradication of stigma, formation of support groups of families where there are mentally ill individuals, looking at further help to this population, or do something for the society in a socially responsible way.

A.  You are right - the presence and persistence of symptoms leaves many wondering as to the best solution for the person suffering and also for their own selves. There are no ready-made answers to what is the best solution. Each solution has to be individualised and tailored according to ones circumstances but with overarching principles. The issues to be always considered are:
  1. The stigma of mental illness needs to be dealt with acceptance, treatment, and support from professionals.
  2. Living and caring for a person with mental illness can be quite draining, but withdrawing from the care can be equally, emotionally devastating for the loved ones as you are just physically away, but not mentally.
  3. Divorce also does not enhance social status.
  4. Divorce and separation can be a major stressor and lead to further complications in the illness process.
  5. If compliance to medication were good, it would be worth trying some new anti psychotics or even Clozapine under the expert advice of the consulting Psychiatrist.
Remember the maximum help for individuals and families with mental illness comes when individuals rise above personal circumstance and do for the society. In fact if you are in an important, responsible position you may be in a position to contribute further to the eradication of stigma, formation of support groups of families where there are mentally ill individuals, looking at further help to this population, or do something for the society in a socially responsible way.

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