Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal
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Family and Friends

Is it beneficial or destructive for mentally ill patients to be surrounded by others with the same or other mental disorders?

Because these are common disorders in adults, there is no reason why two people can't suffer from the same or different problems. First and foremost, if you truly love someone, that feeling is very special. You don't want to leave the person just because he is ill. Having said that, every interaction, every combination, can be a problem depending on how you view it. Generally, an anxious person will be more worried about their loved one than someone who is not as anxious.

Sometimes, when the anxiety is relatively mild, he can help the other person to visit doctors when necessary, or to treat certain fluctuations when things are getting worse. At the same time, you don't want to live with someone who constantly pushes you to deal with every little thing that happens. When people ask about anxiety and what should be done for their spouses or parents, I usually tell them that the best response lies somewhere between two extremes. The ultimate solution is to encourage people to face their fears and to reassure them. You do not want to overprotect them on one hand or push them too hard to confront their fears on the other. If you understand anxiety, you will know that this is the best way to approach the problem. Try to ensure that each member in the relationship knows each other's problems and what does and does not help.

The question also mentions schizophrenia. It is a very important problem in mental health, although not nearly as common as the problems we have discussed today. There are more misconceptions about schizophrenia than anything else. The first thing you notice when you work with people suffering from schizophrenia is that they are normal human beings with an illness. What that means is that they all have a mix of personality characteristics, just like other people, and they can have interesting stories to tell. Sometimes they don't want to be spoken to or may not be as sociable as someone else. However, when you get to know them, they can trust and form relationships just like others can. It just takes a bit longer. The important thing to remember is to treat them just like anybody else. They will learn to trust you and when you see things are not going well, you can suggest they go to the Hospital. They will listen to you because they have learned to trust you.

Forming relationships with people suffering from schizophrenia or other mental illnesses is essential. I say this because it is easy to just ignore people when we are not so comfortable around them. But if we form a bond, they are more likely to confide in us or in family members. They will be more likely to listen to us when we encourage them to comply with medication or to seek help if things get worse. By having a close relationship, we can also better be able to detect any changes in their mental states.

-Camillo Zacchia, PhD, Mini-Psych School 2006

Is it beneficial or traumatic to send young children to day care away from their parents?

It depends on the location, the type of day care and the type of employees, which are all different variables involved in stability. Ideally, children should be with the same person as much as possible and get the attention they need. Some day cares are very good, while others are not so good, just like schools. Parents need to be vigilant and get the best quality day care they can. The important thing is to have a good “fit.”
- Johanne Renaud, MD, Mini-Psych School 2010

How do you make young children aware that they are hurting someone else?

The role of parents is to explain to their children how to understand things. We always have to warn children about dangerous behaviour: not to run with knives, not to touch mom or dad's medications, etc. Of course, some things are easier to learn than others, and when it comes to hurting others, the only thing you can do is to repeat the same message, i.e., "How would you feel if someone said that about you?" At the same time, you don't want to push them, because children can feel very guilty. Some people are extremely sensitive, while others are not. You therefore have to try to find a balance and encourage children to understand what others are thinking without making them feel too guilty.
-Camillo Zacchia, PhD, Mini-Psych School 2010

How does divorce impact small children?

Earlier divorce is actually easier for children than later divorce. Your reaction is really what will determine how your kids react. If you are mature and respect each other, the children will be fine. If you constantly scream at each other and put each other down in their presence, the children may have difficulties. This situation is more challenging for parents than for kids unfortunately.
- Johanne Renaud, MD, Mini-Psych School 2010

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