The diagnosis of schizophrenia most often harms the family members of the patient. This occurs due to a variety of factors, ranging from emotional costs to stigma and misunderstanding of the condition. The disease is inherently complex, frightening, and may have profound consequences on the patient which lead to emotional stress from loved ones. Families are faced with guilt and resentment since at least part of the blame is transferred to them either by self-affliction or society. This pressure results in tremendous strain on family relationships as people begin to exhibit emotional breakdowns or differences in opinion (Pies, n.d.). A large impacting factor is a concern for caregivers. Schizophrenia patients require close monitoring and care by the family to manage the disease, which produces a high level of burden, including dedicated time, financial, and psychological resources. It results in radical changes and challenges in the lives of family members (Caqueo-Urízar, Rus-Calafell, Urzúa, Escudero & Gutiérrez-Maldonado, 2015).
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There is a significant social stigma surrounding severe mental illness such as schizophrenia which leads to the discrimination of not just the patient, but the whole family. A poor understanding of mental illness causes potential denial by family members as schizophrenia symptoms progress. It is an attempt to cope as families hope the disease is passable or can easily be fixed. Culture has been determined to play a role in both, recognition (diagnosis) and outcomes (treatment) of schizophrenia patients in which the family is ultimately involved. Families from cultural backgrounds with traditional and rural roots experience more shame about the disease and may even choose to avoid receiving healthcare for schizophrenia patients to avoid stereotyping and demoralization (Kalra, Bhugra, & Shah, 2012).
Medication non-compliance is a significant issue for schizophrenic patients. An estimated 50% of schizophrenia-afflicted individuals show some level of non-adherence to medication plan, 40% miss appointments, both factors resulting in relapses (Kauppi, Hatonen, Adams, & Valimaki, 2014). A contributing factor can be anosognosia as the patient becomes unaware of the illness (especially relevant for schizophrenics experiencing distorted reality), thus seeing no reason to take medication. Also, due to the chronic nature of the disease, medication becomes a burden since it demands financial expenses and constant visits to a healthcare provider. Other influencing factors such as detrimental side effects of alcohol abuse have been found to result in reduced adherence to a treatment plan which requires a dedicated support system in place (Treatment Advocacy Center, 2014).
Caqueo-Urízar, A., Rus-Calafell, M., Urzúa, A., Escudero, J., & Gutiérrez-Maldonado, J. (2015). The role of family therapy in the management of schizophrenia: Challenges and solutions. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 11, 145–151. Web.
Kalra, G., Bhugra, D., & Shah, N. (2012). Cultural aspects of schizophrenia. International Review of Psychiatry, 25(5), 441-449. Web.
Kauppi, K., Hatonen, H., Adams, C. E., & Valimaki. M. (2014). Perceptions of treatment adherence among people with mental health problems and health care professionals. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 71(4), 777-788. Web.
Pies, R. (n.d.). How families can cope with schizophrenia. Web.
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Treatment Advocacy Center. (2014). Why do some individuals with serious mental illness refuse to take medication? Web.