But what about schizophrenia? Should I attempt to help schizophrenics?

The term "schizophrenia" has come to have a very general meaning. It is used to describe bizarre behavior of a sort that is so disruptive or strange that the person himself or others (or both) decide that something must be done about it. The term does not point to any specific etiology. That is why Karl Menninger, the dean of American psychiatrists, once said, "Schizophrenia? To me that's just a nice Greek word." He was correct. The label tells us nothing beyond the fact that one's behavior is bizarre.

Bizarre behavior may result from widely differing causes.* It could arise from a brain tumor (an organic cause), sleep deprivation (significant sleep loss over 2-4 days),** hallucinogenic substances (intentionally or unintentionally ingested), strange thinking (out of kilter with others), fear (for instance, when a drug pusher constantly "looks over his shoulder" to see if someone is following), camouflaging (to avoid detection of some wrong by throwing people off the track) and so on. Having checked out the organic possibilities and found no reason to refer a counselee to a physician, counsel him.

Don't accept the claim that a person is "out of touch with reality" unless some organic cause for "catatonic" behavior has been detected. Counsel the individual as if he is in touch with reality. If what you say is threatening enough,*** he will respond. Try to learn what it is he is attempting to avoid. Investigate each case to discover what is behind it, and counsel accordingly.


* I once contributed a chapter to a book by Peter Megaro, ed., entitled, The Construction of Madness (University of Maine Press: Oreno), in which each writer discussed his view of schizophrenia. No two chapters agreed!

** In these cases, simply get the person to sleep around the clock for a day or so.

*** For instance, "If you will not talk or take care of your personal needs, we will have to leave you here to soil your underwear and deficate in your clothing."

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