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The Safety "Dance"

There are a few songs that when I hear them on the radio I can’t help but crank up the volume because the song is so infectious. And example is one of the more famous “one-hit wonder” songs of the 1980s, Canadian New Wave band Men Without Hats’ “The Safety Dance.” The song’s melody is bouncy, but its lyrical content and Ivan Doroschuk’s deep baritone make it also somewhat threatening at the same time. The emotional response the song produces in me is one that I can best describe as “euphoric rebellion.” It makes me want to tell the world to go to hell, not out of a sense of antipathy, but out of desire for freedom from judgment. Not surprising, considering the song is in fact a “protest song.” Men Without Hats have become an 80s punchline, largely due to the ridiculous video for “The Safety Dance,” but like all New Wave bands, their origins come from punk. And punk is nothing if not defiant.

 

The meaning of the song is often attributed to protest against nuclear war, very much on the minds of listeners in the early Eighties. However, this is not true. The lyrics of the song refer to a particular type of dancing called “pogoing,” a form of New Wave dancing that was born in clubs as Disco was dying in the late Seventies. Disco dancing required having a partner, which therefore required the dancers have sufficient space on the dance floor to move together. Pogoing, on the other hand, like all New Wave dancing, was done alone. It involved standing in one place, keeping your feet planted and torso rigid, and thrashing your arms about or twisting your upper body in different directions without moving your lower body. The effect produced looked like a person bouncing their head, chest, and arms back and forth like a pogo, hence the name.

 

To Disco club bouncers who had never seen pogoing before and knew nothing about it, it looked extremely dangerous, particularly as pogo dancers would occasionally, but unintentionally, bounce into one another or strike one another with their thrashing arms. Therefore they would tell pogoers to stop or be thrown out of the club. The Men Without Hats song “The Safety Dance” is actually a protest against this practice of bouncers stopping pogo dancers for fear that they would make contact with and hurt another dancer. The lyrics “Everybody look at your hands” in the chorus refer to bouncer demands that pogoers watch their hands and arms while dancing to avoid contact. Nonetheless, the song exhorts its listeners that they should be “taking the chance” even though “Everything is out of control.”

 

So basically the song is saying we need to dance despite the risk of violence.

 

Violence.

 

Violence produces one of two emotional reactions: anger or fear. These two emotions are designed to trigger one of our two basic human drives: fight or flight. If you are going to stand your ground and fight, you need enough anger to overwhelm the natural animalistic aversion to pain. Your brain knows that injury is likely and therefore pumps your body so full of adrenalin and endorphins that your nerve endings are overwhelmed and cannot respond to inflicted pain. If you are going to run, you are going to need the same adrenalin and endorphins to allow the nerves in your nervous system to ignore the excruciating pain caused by your lungs’ inability to draw enough oxygen to prevent the buildup of lactic acid in your muscles. This why seconds after you stop running in fear because you feel you are far enough removed from the threat, it suddenly feels like your muscles are on fire. They have literally been burned by an overabundance of lactic acid.

 

Despite our human history being filled with warfare, we are, by nature, wired to avoid violence because violence decreases our chances of survival. We don’t go around killing each other, not because of an external sense of religious morality, but because constant violence makes survival exceptionally difficult.

 

Therefore violence is not intrinsic to our nature and is typically, in rational people, only initiated when we perceive our survival is threatened.

 

If you subscribe to this view that rational people will only become violent when they perceive their survival to be threatened, then the concept of making violent acts illegal is largely redundant, as we are already wired, if rational, to avoid violence. Therefore, it can be argued that acts of violence that are “unprovoked” are in fact irrational, or essentially “psychopathic.” In common culture we tend to use the term “psychopathic” to refer to those who commit irrational acts of horrific violence, although quite literally the term refers to any person who performs an act which reveals a failure of rational thought and can be traced to a “pathology” within the brain. To put it more simply, “psychopathic” is a known or unknown pathology (disease process) within the brain (the psyche).

 

Thanks to Hollywood films like Psycho and 80s slasher films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, or Friday the 13th, the “psychopath” is portrayed as a victim of psychological trauma who is mindlessly compelled to carry out acts of violence against innocents who had nothing to do with the original trauma. In truth, psychopaths are neither mindless nor generally the victims of trauma. Media stories of serial killers tend to focus on elements of childhood “difference” that could be the cause of their crimes, ignoring the millions who experience similar upbringings but never become killers. The media does this because, as I said earlier, we are not intrinsically violent; therefore it is natural for us as humans to look for a “logical” cause for such unprovoked violence. Therefore the slightest “oddity” in a serial killer’s upbringing is latched onto as the “cause.”

 

I guarantee you that if any of us were to suddenly kill a half a dozen people at random, something “odd” or “different” about us would be found in our background that “foreshadowed” our descent into madness.

 

Since Jani’s story first became public, I have been criticized several times by adult sufferers of mental illness, particularly adult schizophrenics, because they perceive me as perpetuating the stigma that schizophrenics are violent and therefore a danger to those around them. I do actually get where they are coming from. Schizophrenia, like most mental illnesses, is so misunderstood by the general public that the last thing a person with schizophrenia, who is only trying to function, needs is to suddenly find themselves isolated because those around them thing they might be in danger from sudden and unpredictable outbursts of violence. I understand. They tell me that those with schizophrenia are far more likely to suffer violence at the hands of others than to hurt someone else, and this is without question true… for the general population. But what these adult sufferers of schizophrenia so worried about the stigma don’t realize is that this maxim does not hold true for caregivers of those with schizophrenia. If you live with someone who has schizophrenia, you almost certainly will get hurt at some point.

 

Notice I didn’t say “killed.” What those protesting the stigma of schizophrenia are really upset about is the perception that schizophrenics can be fatally violent. To themselves, yes. If you love or care for somebody with schizophrenia, you have to worry about them killing or harming themselves severely all the time. That is, hopefully, what the medications are designed to prevent, or at least lessen the likelihood of this happening.

 

But caretakers of those afflicted with schizophrenia, because we have to try and come between our loved one and his/her illness, are often the target of violence. It isn’t intentional. When Jani turns violent on a dime, as she can, she doesn’t mean to.  It is the same basic fight or flight response that we all have, yet it is being controlled by something else. When Jani becomes violent, she is not herself. It is as if another force has, for a brief moment, taken control of Jani’s body and is initiating the fight or flight response based on a perceived threat. The only problem is that the threat isn’t “real,” at least to us.  “Fight or flight” response is located in the lower brain, but it must be initiated by the pre-frontal cortex, or the “thinking brain.” With Jani and those like her, periodically the diseased part of the brain which responds to the hallucinations triggers the fight or flight response, resulting either in violence against whatever the psychosis perceives as a threat (often the caregiver) or a desire to do something dangerous (a misfire of the “flight” response) in which anybody trying to stop Jani from harming herself or putting herself at risk will also become the target of violence simply because that person (usually the caregiver again) is preventing Jani from carrying out her “flight” response. The upshot is that caregivers to mentally ill children and adults can be the targets of violence simply because they have to, by nature of their job as parents or other caregivers, come between the child and whatever the psychosis is driving the child to do.

 

Susan and I and every parent of a mentally ill child I have ever known get hurt because we get in the middle between our children and their psychosis, which is like walking across the no man’s land between two warring armies. You are going to get hit in the crossfire.

 

Everyday, we parents must come between our child and that which is why trying to harm them and so by default that which is trying to harm them, once prevented from doing so, will turn on us. We know it isn’t our children trying to hurt us, or our brothers, sisters, or parents. It is the psychosis. It is the disease.

And since you can’t kill the disease without killing the person it inhabits, you have to, as a caregiver, accept a little collateral damage. That is if you want to keep being a caregiver.

 

I am all for fighting stigma, but simply trying to fight the stigma that mentally ill people are violent doesn’t help anyone, least of all those who are mentally ill, because it plays into the very stigma it is trying fight. The true stigma that we need to be fighting is that the stigma that prevents mentally ill children and adults from getting the help they need, which is the fear of being on the receiving end of a violent psychotic episode. It is the fear we need to fight against, because it is that fear that allows social services to deny care to children and adults with mental illness.

 

From what I have been able to gather, the primary reason that Jani’s intern program was shut down was concerns for the safety of the interns. Mostly this was because one of our former interns, unbeknownst to us, had gone to work with another child, a child who was significantly less stable than Jani. This intern was then left alone with the child, which should not have happened. It took many months before we and the interns felt comfortable enough to let Jani go with them alone. I say “comfortable” in the loosest sense of the word because I was never truly comfortable, which is in no way a reflection on the interns. I am never comfortable when Jani is out of my sight because I am afraid if Jani has a psychotic episode, I will not be there to diffuse it. I will be trapped across town unable to respond to a crisis. With the first and second set of interns, either Susan or myself always rode shotgun. Eventually though, the interns got comfortable enough with Jani and Jani got comfortable enough with them and we got comfortable enough with the interns to allow Jani to occasionally go alone with them.

 

So this intern should not have been left alone with a child she knew nothing about. There seems to be a perception amongst the interns that quit that we forced or required this. We didn’t. We knew nothing about it. Had we known we would not have allowed the intern to put herself into that position.

 

But for whatever reason, this intern consented to be left alone with this child. Most likely she based this decision on having been alone with Jani without incident, but as I had warned the interns before, specifically in regards to Jani, never assume that how Jani is on one day or even in one moment will provide any sense of how she will be during the next visit or even the next moment. Psychosis, because it is not triggered by external factors, can come out of nowhere, which means that anybody who works with Jani can never let their guard down, even for a moment.

 

Jani’s apartment is devoid of all sharp objects. All cooking is done in Bodhi’s apartment, and even there the sharp knives are well out of easy access. We both keep Jani’s time in Bodhi’s apartment to a minimum and never, ever leave her alone with Bodhi, no matter how well she might be doing with Bodhi at that particular point in time. These are precautions that as a parent of child with psychosis you must take. Other parents I know have installed locks on doors to protect themselves or other family members, creating what is essentially a “panic room.” Others have siblings sleep in the parents’ bedroom. All of us in one way or another turn our homes into psych wards, doing our best to remove any dangers. For example, we have no glass in both apartments. Susan replaced all of our glass and glass cookware with plastic plates, bowls, and cups, purely as a precautionary measure.

 

From what I have been told, this girl’s house contained sharp objects, including knives and scissors. We have heard conflicting stories about what happened, ranging from the girl came after the intern with sharp scissors to the girl threw books, toys, and furniture at the intern. The intern was forced to call the police and paramedics.

 

Six days after this incident, I met this girl along with Jani at a park. At that time, she appeared largely “normal.” However, I have no doubt that the intern was the target of violence because that is how psychosis works. I am sure if I am around this girl enough, eventually I will be a target, too. In fact, this weekend the girl’s grandmother is supposed to go on Susan’s radio show and I am supposed to watch this girl. Along with Jani, Bodhi, and two interns who stuck with us. And the more I think about it, the less I think it is a good idea. It is not that I have any fear for myself. If something goes wrong, I could send Jani and Bodhi with the interns but that would leave me alone, in public, with a girl whom I do not know how she will react if I have to restrain her. You can imagine what it would look like to see a grown man trying to restrain a girl screaming for help. It is recipe for me ending up in the back of a police car.

 

Now Jani will be there as well, as historically psychotic children seem to do well together. But I know Jani like the back of my hand. I know how to work her down from a psychotic episode. It involves staying calm and continually offering solutions. With someone in a psychotic state, you have to be able to look into the abyss without it swallowing you up. You can’t get scared. You can’t get angry. You have to stay calm no matter how out of the control the person is getting.

 

But you have to know enough about the person to know potential triggers. You have to know what relieves stress. And you have to be in an environment where you have some control over the situation, at the very least what we parents of mentally ill or spectrum kids call an “exit strategy,” in other words “if things go bad how the hell do we get them out there?”

 

With other people’s mentally ill or spectrum kids my general course of action is to do what would give a straight behaviorist conniption fits: I give in. Basically, I let them have whatever they want in order to keep their stress level low so they don’t blow. Yes, you have to teach your kids, even mentally ill ones, to deal with disappointment but there is a time and a place. Most parents can say “no” to their kids in a public place without having to worry about the child becoming violent. And we are not talking tantrums here. We are talking full-on gouge your eyes out violence.

 

Jani’s history of violence has been covered in every media story about her, yet people are always surprised by it when it finally rears its ugly head. Partly this is because most of the time Jani is a sweet and wonderful, if a bit eccentric, child. Partly it is because you can never understand the nature of psychosis until you actually see somebody suddenly go into a psychotic state. And partly because you just can’t conceive of the violence until you are on the receiving end of it.

 

And then as soon as it came, it is over, and Jani remembers nothing. She can tell from your demeanor that she did something wrong but if you ask her what she did she will guess.

 

And she always “I hit,” even if she didn’t. Because that is her default response.

 

So the professor shut down the intern program, fearing for the safety of her interns (there was also an earlier incident where Jani attacked an intern because she was trying to stop Jani from punching her fist through glass). It is her obligation to put the safety of her interns first.

 

I get that and do not criticize her for it. As a college instructor myself, I am also responsible for the safety of my students. No college intern program can knowingly put its students into a situation where they might be in danger, at least not at the undergraduate level. At the graduate level they can but only if the student signs a waiver releasing the university of liability should the student be injured or killed. Otherwise, any time a student is on campus or conducting university business, the university is responsible for that student’s safety.

 

So the fatal flaw in the intern program that we had planned as the cornerstone of the Village Project (soon to be renamed) turned out to be that in the process of assisting a family with a mentally ill child, the intern or interns can get hurt.

 

But here is the kicker: We had to create the intern program in the first place because the Wraparound Team from the Santa Clarita Child & Family Center said exactly the same thing: they had to protect the safety of their “team.” And these are supposedly trained professionals.

 

I would not expect college interns to be able to stand firm in the face of psychotic violence, but what is a family with a mentally ill child to do if the trained professionals from the Department of Mental Health and their contracted agencies won’t put themselves at risk either? This was also one of the reasons why Maryvale, a “psychiatric residential facility,” would not take Jani. Just Deveroux in Texas where they respond to psychotic violence with force, in the same way prison guards respond to riots.

 

No, individuals with schizophrenia are not a danger to society. Yes, they are more a danger to themselves. But in order to prevent them from harming themselves requires putting oneself at a level of risk, even if you don’t use restraints (which should always be the last resort and only done by trained professionals under observation by supervisors).  Most of the time, I can talk Jani out of a violent state, although I take a few lumps in the process. The best way to bring someone out of a psychotic state is to be in the room with them, speaking calmly. But that requires opening yourself to risk.

 

If you are a parent of a mentally ill child, you have to do this. You were drafted the moment your child was born. But if you don’t have a child who is mentally ill, or a family member you care for, you are a volunteer. Even if you are a paid therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist, MFT, social worker, etc, you are still a volunteer.

 

Working with those who suffer from psychosis is not for everybody.

 

Just like the Army, it is your choice to sign up or not.

 

But don’t enlist if you aren’t prepared to go to war.

 

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20 comments on “The Safety "Dance"

  1. I feel angry that so often you say that mental illness effects those differently. Like people it is unique to all that suffer, we all experience it differently. Then you state ” If you live with someone who has schizophrenia, you almost certainly will get hurt at some point.”
    I’ve had schizophrenia since childhood. I’ve been a severe case. Even in the storm of my illness I’ve never hurt anyone. I’ve had several partners in my life time, ones spanning for years on end, living with the, yet non have been hurt intentionally or not. I feel angry you can say how unique it is and then feel like you’re lumping us all in the same basket.

  2. I giggle….
    ….when I read that even though Jani’s violence is well-documented in articles and TV, people just don’t get it until they see it.

    I think I commented on your last post that Tim’s caseworker called us in shock when he saw Tim in a violent psychotic episode, and my response to him was, “uh….yeah….that’s why he’s there. Did you think we were kidding?”

    You don’t get it until you live it. Truly.

  3. Most people with psychosis never injure another person. This is a fact that is well accepted by the mental health community. I hate to sound clinical; but for you to state fact based only on the experiences you have come in contact with, and without research, is wrong. From what I have read, it seems that violence is much more common in children; but that is still universal. To say that to care for a psychotic person will always lead to injury is wrong. In all the years I’ve had symptoms, despite intense command hallucinations who would hurt me, severe paranoia, and rage issues, I have somehow painfully managed to resist. That makes me no better or worse than violent, psychotic teens, it just makes me different.

    As always, I love your writing; but please do try not to make such inaccurate generalizations, or at least try do research before you do.

    Note from Michael: I hear what you are saying, Eri, but I think maybe you are missing my point. This is going to sound harsh but I really don’t care whether the general population thinks all those with schizophrenia are violent or not. What I care about is that irregardless of whether those with schizophrenia are more or less violent than dentists, that those who ARE violent get the help they need, not judgment. As I said in my blog, the problem is not the stigma of violence. The problem is that as a society we run from violence, or punish it, when violence is a cry for help.

  4. The child in question (mine) was first dx with ADHD & Bipolar but had no psychosis (about a year ago). We treated for the ADHD as this was the prevailing issue. She responded beautifully, excelled in her class when she had been behind, and was gifted in the arts. This lasted about 6 months. Eventually a couple of things happened. By December the ADHD meds had built up in her system enough to trigger the bipolar psychosis, I understand now that Vyvanse is known to do this. It is common when trying to treat both adhd & bipolar – one med interferes with the other and also aggravates it. During her hospitalization at UCLA they took her off her meds for a few days then switched her meds. She did very well the last few days at UCLA and the first few days home. I never expected her to relapse as she was doing so well. Problem was that she was released from UCLA on a “starting dose” and it need to be increased – no one warned me this might happen. Since she has been on an increased dose of her bipolar meds and the addition of Intuniv, she is doing GREAT! As far as scissors and knives in the house, she has NEVER gotten to the point that she could not use scissors. She is constantly doing crafts and has never used them in any kind of threatening manner. Neither has she ever grabbed a knife. She does the dishes but is not allowed to wash the knives – she leaves them alone. And I must point out that my house is not “full of knives and scissors” I have far fewer knives than most families as well as 3 sets of scissors. She also has never run blindly into the street. She has always been very safety conscious and up to now that has been enough to keep her from more dangerous behavior. She has this disease, however her only psychosis to date can easily be attributed to the effects of the adhd stimulant on her bipolar disorder. She is articulate, once she gets to know you. Up until January when my neighbors moved, she had spent an exorbitant amount of time with their three year old, outside(alone)in our courtyard reading to her, playing with her and even keeping an eye for her safety. Even after her first hospitalization in January. This is all new to me, I am smart enough to know what is potentially dangerous for her and others now, and understand that this may change in time. She may, and probably will need continual medication adjustments – I am learning as fast as I can and not liking what I’m finding out about the system and how it works, how it segregates services for special needs children by having arbitrary criteria to qualify for these services. Autism yes – Schizophrenia no, seizure disorder yes – Bipolar no (even when new evidence points to bipolar actually being a type of seizure disorder. My but I won’t comment further about it here.

    Thanks.

    Note from Michael: I hope you understand that I was responding to allegations made by the professor who ran the intern program rather than stating what I believed the truth was. Whether Hannah is violent or not is not the issue. The issue that any child who experiences violent episodes needs help, not people to run in fear.

  5. One day your daughter will be grown and have to walk by herself through this life. She may not have you and your wife there to protect her from everything nasty. Maybe she will be stable enough to care for herself. And she may have to learn just how people will treat her because of her illness.

    I’ve had family and friends leave. I’ve known a lot of schizophrenics that have killed themself, not because of the mental illness, because of the stigma.

    It’s hard to walk through life when it feels as though the whole world doesn’t see you as human, instead sees you as this psychotic animal. You lose the people you need most to carry you when it gets too much.

    You should care about stigma, because if you care about the mentally ill it is one of the hardest things we battle. I have learnt to cope with the challenges my mind throws me. I have learnt to manage my life and hold my head above water. I’ve gotten through the hardest things of my illness. But I managed to drag myself through it with only one person there who never judged me.

    I wouldn’t have made it if they abandoned me also. This may not be something Jani has to deal with at this time in her life. She has found others little girls like her to relate to, she has support, she has a family who cares enough, she has a family who shelters her.

    But of all those I’ve met on my journey. Those in hospitals, those on the streets. The hardest thing for all of us is the way we are perceived. Things would be so much easier if it didn’t feel as though we weren’t welcome in life.

    Nothing has hurt more than the pain of your only support in life cutting the line because of something you can’t control, something you need support, something you can’t make on your own.

    Jani has interns who have stuck by her, Jani has a family, Jani has friends.

    Some of us have non of that, no one, and society doesn’t want us. Try battling all the demons in your head alone with the judgement of society and try and find a reason to stay on earth.

    You should care about the stigma we bear, it’s sometimes a larger problem then the mental illness its self.

    You I didn’t expect to hear this from you.

    Note from Michael: Obviously I am thinking as a parent, not as an adult. And as a parent I can in no way feel that the stigma is worse than the disease itself. The worse thing, at least from my perspective, is the lack of services, not the stigma. I would much rather mental health organizations be providing services than fighting stigma. That being said, we are fighting for the same thing. You are upset that society judges you as potentially violent. I am upset because society shouldn’t care if you are violent or not. You are still a human being, regardless of things you can’t control.

    One last thing about your first line: My goal is that Jani, and any mentally ill person, will never have to “walk through life alone.”

  6. Thank you
    Michael, thank you for explaining the issue of violence in the context of Jani’s illness. I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of months and always come away knowing more than I did before about your daughter.

    Please excuse me for stating the obvious, but I believe this is your blog. That is, your personal forum to say what you like and in whatever manner you choose.

    I say this because I am surprised that other readers would choose to have a go at the content – publicly – and you, by default. The disclaimer at the head of this blog clearly states, “This blog should be taken as a representation of my emotional state at the time of writing, not fact.”

    So. Uh. Hey everyone, could we perhaps keep this in mind? I do not know the Schofield family but I personally think if they’re brave enough to share their experiences here, the least we can do is be supportive, and listen – compassionately and without judgement.

    … and perhaps EMAIL criticisms (if any) rather than spewing it out in such a public space. Their email details are easy to find on this site.

    Just an idea.

    Thank you.

    Note from Michael: I appreciate that, Cheryl-Anne, but I don’t mind criticism directed at me. With the old januaryfirst.org site I wanted it to be a place where families of mentally ill kids could share without worrying about being attacked. But that is not a concern anymore as we have a private online support group (one can apply for membership on my “resources” page) so this is more of a public forum now. I moderate all comments on this site so if a comment shows up it means I let it go up, and I let most comments go through now. If somebody wants to take issue with something I have written, they are welcome to do so. Does this mean I will respond to them? Maybe or maybe not. It depends if I feel it is important to respond. Nonetheless, thanks for your support.

  7. I have watched a shy child change with psychosis to hitting, kicking, scratching teachers, aides, and me!! Although he can be sweet for hours or days at a time, during the worse of it, he can change to violent very easily and to fleeing. We as parents and caretakers have to take blows or flying objects we never thought our child would do. What i have seen is the ability to FLIP from normal to grabbing scissors right out of someones hand. My knives remain under my bed. I cook with 1 steak knife. I have hid the scissors so i don’t know where they are anymore. The school only listened to me WHEN THEY SAW it and the teacher got scared. The 1:1 did not come because I WAS SCARED, it took 7 months until THEY got scared. They still don’t understand because they are congratulating ME because he is going to school and its not what i do or don’t do, its his mood that day and thats all it is. Jill

  8. I think you are missing Eri’s point, which I second. You are labelling a population with something harmful to life and say you don’t care, while you are talking about a specific situation applicable to a segment of that population. Maybe American society runs from violence. I don’t live there. Violence in American society often looks glorified to me, and “coming together for the victims” more so (versus “keep calm and carry on” or whatnot other lines one might take).

    I’m interested in what you have to say about the reasons why you choose to deal with Jani’s violence the way you do and about deescalating the threat posed by children, but I think that deescalation requires more respect and subtlety than you grant.

  9. I agree that violent mentally ill patients should be treated fairly, and I would do anything to make that sure. However, why do you consider lying and making false generalizations is the way to do it? Just as it is wrong to say that no mentally ill person is violent to fight stigma, saying the opposite – that most or all psychotic individuals are violent – is just as wrong. In both cases, someone along the line is going to see it is false, and if that is false, why trust anything we say? But most troubling are the people that believe it, because then they will hold onto those generalizations and either end up under prepared or too defensive. Ignorance is what leads to stigma, fear and unequal treatment, and stigma is the lack of knowledge. Therefore, its only cure is the true facts. That yes, some psychotic/mentally individuals are violent; but that does not mean they themselves are violent people, or that putting them in treatment with others is dangerous. It is just a symptom or result of a symptom of their disease. However, most mentally ill patients never anyone but themselves, and are often not a danger to others. In fact, they, just like healthy or physically persons, can make great companions.

    All through our lives we experience that lying can result in huge problems and is often hurtful. In this case, while it may seem like a good idea to you, it can only lead to damaging the lives of the mentally ill. Keep informing the public why some mentally ill people are violent; but fight ignorance with knowledge, and keep it balanced and truthful. That most most mentally patients are only harmful to themselves. Because, to be honest, I’m kind of afraid to ever meet the non mentally ill/their loved ones readers of this blog. You just told them a huge lie about violence and psychosis. Now I fear that they will fear me. I’m Schizoaffective, and according to you, that always leads to violence. People who don’t know otherwise will believe and remember that, and the lives of the mentally ill will get harder. Stop lying, ignorance can’t be destroyed with falsities.

    Note from Michael: Didn’t think I was lying and still don’t think I am lying. I think the issue is that adults with mental illness have completely different issues from children with mental illness. And that is who I represent: children. And do you really think that the parents and caregivers of mentally ill children, who have been the target of violence from the ones they love most, are going to be afraid of you? I think that is a bit paranoid, which, as I am sure you know, is a symptom of your illness. Parents of the mentally ill are the only true advocates you have.

  10. I just think that it is good to hear from people who know what it feels like at the end of the day. In one moment you are hugging your child, you love her more than life itself and want nothing more than for her to be able to do what every other child does day in and day out, but in the next moment you are waiting as your child picks up a chair to hit you with it. You blink, know it is coming, but also know that it is more important to not retaliate. You cry as you pull away from the hospital, and lock up your scissors and knives. You are confronted daily by people that live live inside her head, voices telling her she knows she wants to kill her mommy. You go to bed and cry yourself to sleep, helpless, all you can do is love her and try to keep her safe.
    My daughter is 8. People tell me all the time that I am amazing and wonderful to care for her the way I do. Seriously, I would like to slap these people. My actions are not to be commended. I am a parent of a child with schizophrenia. I do what I can, with what I can. My daughter is bright, loving and gives the best hugs. She is not a monster, but she is schizophrenic and she can be violent. It is a possibility that exists, and a reality that some of us deal with. I am just glad to be able to hear that there are others out there.

    Note from Michael: And you and your daughter are who I represent. Amy, are you a member of our private online support group? If not, go the “resources” page of my website and request to join. It is called Online Parental Support Group.

  11. You said that if you are a caregiver to someone with psychosis, you will eventually get hurt. That is false, and therefore a lie. Once again, I do bit deny that many are violent and deserve to be treated – if you remember, I am a mentally ill teen myself – but making generalizations isn’t helping. Also, if you read my post closely, I said readers who are not mentally ill or their loved ones. While a lot of that is my paranoia, some of that is still based on truth. I don’t want to argue with you, I just want you to see that making false claims will not help. I’m not going against the mission of this post, just the weapon you used to do it.

    Note from Michael: I don’t disagree with you. I think I just take issue with your claim that I “lied” or your claim that anything that I state that is false is therefore “a lie.” You are making a logical fallacy there. Just because something is on partially true or does not apply to everybody does not make it a lie. You have to remember that I am coming at this from my own experience and from the parents that I know (every single one of them who have experienced violence from their kids). I don’t know if they or you are the exception or the rule, but you are certainly far more functional than most of the mentally ill children I know (again, I could be making a generalization here-my point is that the mentally ill children I know are so struggling to function that they are not in the position to argue.

    The point of the whole post was that violence is certainly an issue amongst the population of mentally ill kids I know and I am trying to get the public to see beyond that violence and help them anyway. You have a voice, Eri, and I give you full credit and a space to speak here (and I will continue to, even when you dislike something I say). I support your voice and encourage it, but I speak for those kids who, unlike you, cannot speak for themselves… at least not yet.

  12. There is a support group for adults too, if Erin is interested. There tends to be less expressed emotion there than in Michael’s blogs, where it can make me feel slightly psychotic.

    Note from Michael: I don’t know if you are referring to the group that I started but if so unfortunately Eri cannot yet join. For legal reasons and for everybody’s protection I can’t have somebody underage in either the parental support group or the adult mental illness group. I would love to set up a teen group, but it would require a moderator and I am not comfortable doing that. The adult group and the parental support groups don’t have moderators.

  13. My Dr and myself when I was first diagnosed looked over my time line of how long I’d had schizophrenia since I was diagnosed at an early age (13). My parents had taken me to emergency rooms as young as 5 with delusions and hallucinations, of course I wasn’t diagnosed then, they didn’t want to. I had been actively psychotic for as long as memory served my parents. Much like Jani. I was never violent, I never attacked anyone, even while psychotic. Even though I became highly paranoid my parents were plotting against me. So even for children to all be classed as violent is an inaccurate statement.

    Note from Michael: Fair enough, although every parent in my support group has a child who is or has been violent, and of course the violence to themselves is always worse. I still think the larger point is being missed though. What does it matter if you have a mental illness that manifests itself sometimes in violence? Does that make you less of a human being? Of course not. Mentally ill children who are violent are far more vulnerable to society than those of you who are not. The issue is not and should not be whether mentally ill children or adults are violent or not (especially none are “consistently” violent-like psychosis, it comes and goes without warning). The issue is the lack of services for all mentally ill. Quibbling over who is violent or not is wasting time and energy. If people around you stigmatize you because they are afraid of you, screw them. Then they truly don’t care about you. The reason that there are no services for mentally ill has less to do with stigma and more to do with the fact that caring for mentally ill is expensive and you have an illness that society can excuse as behavior and so therefore is not obligated to treat you like they would someone with cancer.

  14. I have always had more insight than most other teens. I tend to believe it is due to family chaos and sexual abuse, among other traumas, in addition to a lifetime of bullying and all sorts of abuse where I had no voice. I’m not sure if this gained insight is good or bad, it just is a part of me. It is no, however, image of how well I function. Off the internet – and it is easier for me to communicate online due to spectrum issues, anyways – I fall apart almost daily, and it is fierce struggle to keep me from drowning. Much like the kids you know.

    My insight is also the reason for my lack of violence. I know it’s a symptom, so I do my best to resist. But it is so painful to do so in the midst of a rage or command hallucination. The ghosts send demons onto me, beat me, and threaten to kill my loved ones. Instead, I go after myself (cutting, overdose, head banging, bruising, attempting to break bones, etc) and often throw things and destroy the house. I once even tried to burn the house down. In perspective, none of this is better than going after another being. And actually, looking back, I have lashed out, it just lessened as mixed states did (as the course of bipolar symptoms as we age); but I have slapped, kicked, scratched (in the face), and pushed others.

    On that note, I obviously don’t deny violence, especially in kids and teens. And I also see that lie is not the right word. Hyperbole is. I was just upset, because (1) I had truly forgotten my violence (not that I was great at remembering it right after it happened…though I know it sounds impossible that I actually forgot it, I hope you believe) and (2) it is true, not every psychotic person is violent. And I suppose that is where I am against what you said, because exaggerations do not do any better to educate the public than complete lies. All I really request, is that you balance personal experience and fact – that yes, many kids/teens are violent; but not all psychotic patients lash out. Maybe consider it?

    Note from Michael: Of course, Eri. I listen to anything you say and value it. I can get defensive just like any other human being. What’s funny (in a sad way) is how you doubted that I could understand how you could literally forget your violence. Not at all. Jani forgets her violence immediately. Most kids I know are exactly like you. They don’t remember. It is part of the psychosis to disassociate from the violence. This is why I am trying to get society to accept the violence because it isn’t your fault or the fault of any other mentally ill individual who is violent either to themselves, others, or property. We want the same thing: we both want society to stop judging mentally ill for things they cannot control and understand that despite occasional bouts of psychosis, the mentally ill are wonderful, kind, and loving people. Jani’s capacity for violence comes nowhere near her capacity for kindness and love, and this has been true of every mentally ill child I have known.

    I am also very sorry for the abuse that you suffered but I want you to know that I respect your voice and your strength and you will always have a voice on my website. I admire you a lot, Eri.

  15. Well i’m an adult schizophrenic and i think you and your wife are exceptional parents.:)

    Note from MIchael: Well, thank you, but what excites me more than your compliment is that you are an adult schizophrenic and you are still here, still alive. I can’t tell you how much hope that gives me. To all the adult schizophrenics who have visited my site, you all give me hope, even if you don’t always agree with me.

  16. Dear mr schofield
    I was wondering if it’s ok to email you at the address given at the bottom of this web page? Hope you and your family are well.
    sincerely
    Lin

    Note from Michael: Of course. Or you can email at the email that it forwards to: michael.schofield@csun.edu. However, I get a lot of emails so give me time to respond. When someone sends me an email it can take me weeks to reply.

  17. Hi Michael…I’ve just started reading about your family after seeing something about Jani on t.v. I love your posts and you are remarkable for doing all you are doing for your family. I am writing to tell you about my ex. I am 37, he is 50 (been separated for 8 years and were together for 7 years). He was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 21. He has been on many different medications since then, worked for about 9 years before applying and receiving SSD and when I met him he told me all about this yet I still saw in him what no one else had, a very caring and loving individual. Yes, he is able to love and live and even helped me raise my 2 year old son from a previous marriage. We even had a son together. While he does not always think the “same” as you or I, he is able to function on a daily basis. We separated for reasons that had nothing to do with his schizophrenia and he is still involved in the kids lives. There will come a day when all will begin to look brighter for you all…give it time. Going to see your facebook page now…Take Care. Kristin Kufta

  18. Everything will work out right…Jani, Susan, and Michael
    We can dance if we want to.
    We’ve got all your life, and mine.
    As long as we abuse it,
    Never gonna lose it.
    Everything will work out right.

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