Stories of Hope

Support for families affected by sever mental illness

March 09, 2020

When ‘Rio’ presented with symptoms of severe mental illness, his parents kept blaming each other for his illness. His father blamed the mother for negligence, carelessness, being so rigid and having a history of mental illness in her family. ‘Rio’ was diagnosed with chronic psychosis with negative symptoms at 21 years of age, and the deterioration in his mental functioning was significant. Since 2012, he has been admitted to a mental hospital at least three times a year. This to a great extent was attributed to insufficient knowledge of the family about mental illness and his support needs, as well as the lack of community based mental health care services. His mother walked out of the home, severely broken by her son’s mental health condition, and the constant blaming and accusations from her husband.

YouBelong worker conducting psycho education with Rio and his father during a post discharge visit

His parent’s separation severely affected ‘Rio’ so much that following one of his admissions, he was left in the mental hospital for more than 5 months, with each party feeling unappreciated and refusing to stay with him. His worry about staying in the hospital the rest of his life was rein enforced following a failed attempt by the hospital administration to have his parents take him home.

The YOUBELONGHOME (YBH) programme was his last hope. After requesting to meet his parents at their home, which they agreed to, the YBH team quickly established a relationship of care with the family, and provided psycho-education about the nature of their son’s illness, how greatly their clashes and the breakdown of their relationship contributed to his drastic deterioration in his health and how best they could support him when he returns home. Although it was a heated and lengthy discussion full of outpouring of emotions, the YBH team was able to bring both parents to an understanding of how they can together support their son in recovery, and to start to address their relationship issues. The YBH team further dealt with misconceptions about the possible causes of mental illness that the family deeply held. The parents resolved to learn more about mental illness and to work together. The YBH team arranged for the YouBelong bus to return ‘Rio’ home to his family that was now motivated to support him in recovery. The YBH team conducted a family support and self-care discussion after ‘Rio” had been welcomed home by his parents.

It has been a year now since ‘Rio’s’ parents teamed up to support him to recovery and they are getting it right. ‘Rio’ is living a happier and functional life in his community following the intervention. The YBH team worked with ‘Rio’ and his parents to empower and provide them with some skills to handle conflict and difficulties at home. And ‘Rio’ was encouraged and supported to engage in an income generating activity to further reintegrate him with the community, and to build his self-esteem.