This morning I visited the website for NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health). This branch of the National Institute of Mental Health conducts studies, does research, along with provides information for consumers.
Our entire family went there in 2008 to take part in a schizophrenia study . Over the course of two days, researchers ran all kinds of tests comparing the brain of our daughter, affected by paranoid schizophrenia, to her three healthy brothers. Several of the tests included brain imaging. These important tests give scientists and doctors a vivid picture of the brain.
The picture above was downloaded (with permission) from the NIMH website. It illustrates the brain of a twelve healthy teens on the left with that of 12 teens with childhood onset schizophrenia on the right. The red and yellow areas indicate the loss of gray matter over a five-year period.
It’s a sobering picture to me. I’m saddened for the children and adults whose illness goes untreated. I know they didn’t ask for their illness, any more than someone asks for cancer or diabetes. I also am saddened that lack of treatment makes it almost impossible to stop the freight train of destruction happening in their brains.
I understand many, many with this devastating illness believe they are not ill. That the rest of the world is wrong. How does one go about getting their loved one to get treatment? In our case, we had to force it. We went to the court system and had her committed for court-ordered medication. And then we stood beside her and assisted her as she began to claw her way back to health. It took four years before she could manage life again on her own, but she did it. She eventually came to the understanding her body needed help with medication to live a life similar to those around her. She took charge of her own health.And I am so proud.
I only need to look at the above photograph to be filled with gratitude that the destruction of the gray matter in her brain was halted.