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DEAR COUNSELLOR: Teens and mental health

Dr Karelle Hylton Ph.D Counselling Psychologist

DEAR COUNSELLOR:
I attend a prominent high school in St Andrew. I live with my maternal grandmother and my younger sister; she is 15 years old. This is my problem. My sister has been having episodes of hearing voices and doing things that can be described as ‘crazy’ and/or ‘unusual’. She has been to a psychiatrist and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. These are some of the things she has been doing. She has a hard time concentrating or following a train of thought in discussions, whether at home or at school. Sometimes she says she sees and hears things that no one else sees or hears. My sister seems to be confusing what is in shows on the TV with reality. She has some very strange ideas that may not make sense. For example, she thinks that my grandmother and I are trying to poison her. After she was taken to see the doctor, he had prescribed medication for her.

My grandmother believes that an evil spirit has possessed her and is thinking of going to the pastor to pray out the demon. My grandmother is strongly against giving her the medication because it has side effects. By this time my sister seems to be getting worse. She is extremely moody or irritable, she has had angry outbursts at school, and she even fights. No one knows about this, as my grandmother says it is a family matter; however, I am very concerned. The latest thing is that I have heard her talking to herself, using odd words that I can’t understand, or talking fast, mixing up everything.
Please help.
R.M.

grandmother’s belief in spiritual healing is real to her, and she believes that getting healing through prayers will help; as a Christian society, prayers and faith are believed to move mountains. In addition to spiritual help, it is very important that your grandmother recognises that this is a physical illness that can be treated through the administration of prescribed medication. Your grandmother ought to look at the illness as any other, like hypertension, diabetes, glaucoma or arthritis – all these require medication.

What I could suggest is that you do your own research on the issue of ‘teens and schizophrenia’.

Being informed, you will be able to talk with your sister and other family members and help to dispel any fears about the treatment, and learn how to help your sister become the best of who she can be.
Mental illnesses are sometimes viewed negatively and are gravely misunderstood by our society.

Unfortunately, persons, regardless of age, race, economic status or religious background, are treated with scant regard; some are stigmatised and even ostracised by family, friends and community.

The reasons for a person to become ‘unhinged’, ‘depressed’, ‘disturbed’, or to ‘act out’ varies – it may be as a result of genetics, choices persons make, or the environment in which they live. Whatever the reason, when someone displays mental illness, it is our responsibility to be our brother’s/sister’s keeper and extend a helping hand to those among us who have mental challenges. I encourage all those who have family members who have displayed behaviours that are outside of the ‘norm’ to get them the professional help they need.

I hope your sister’s situation improves and that your family can begin the process of working through the presented challenges at this time.

Dr Karelle Hylton Ph.D Counselling Psychologist karelle_hylton@yahoo.com

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