No substitute for human connection : An inside look at coping with severe mental illness

No substitute for human connection : An inside look at coping with severe mental illness
After volunteering with psychiatric patients for a decade, a Canadian author is calling for more non-medical interventions to help people with schizophrenia.

Susan Doherty visited dozens of people with severe mental illness at Montreals largest psychiatric hospital, the Douglas Institute, ahead of writing her second book The Ghost Garden.

The joys of helping others in need are limitless, there is simply no substitute for human connection, Doherty told CTVs Your Morning.

The fear factor around this condition, this illness, this disease, its so isolating and so lonely for people and we are all human beings.

Thats my main message, that we need to connect with everyone, not just you and I who arent symptomatic.

The burden on families with a member suffering from schizophrenia is great, Doherty said, and burnout for health professionals is also a factor.

Im proposing that more non-medical volunteers shoulder the weight of the responsibility because the burnout factor for family members is incalculable, the Montreal-based writer said.

The non-fiction narrative focuses on the character Caroline Evans, who is based on a real-life friend Doherty has known since 1967.

In her 20s, the friend started having inexplicable behaviours, was hospitalized and suffered multiple bouts of depression.

If we were to not let those symptoms define a person, theyre still a loving caring person who wants to live with purpose, Doherty said.

We as a society have put a frost fence around them (those with schizophrenia) and cut them off and they live far far outside the boundaries of human acceptance and thats wrong and that needs to change.

Evans, who believed she could save her roommate from the devil by pouring boiling water into her ear, gave the author complete access to her medical files and court records.
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