December 16, 2005

Another Family Story of Schizophrenia

Below is a personal story from today's Dallas/Fort Worth Star Telegram. Texas is just one of the many states with no early diagnosis and treatment centers for schizophrenia - and we get emails from people looking for them all the time. The issue is particularly relevant because in this family's story, one brother had already developed schizophrenia - so that family should have known that the risk was higher for the other siblings and been particularly sensitive to any strange behavior.

Think of the tax-payer costs (to say nothing of the family's personal pain) that would have been avoided if Cindy's husband had been diverted to an early diagnosis and treatment clinic as soon as any symptoms became evident. For some reason people can see the value of having and using seat belts to prevent harm in the inevitable accidents, but even though we know that on average about 100,000 people will develop schizophrenia each year in the US - we do nothing to prevent it, or minimize the harm due to it - despite much research that shows how early intervention can help. For some reason people think the best answer is to just build more jails.

Late in 2001, Cyndi Bunch began noticing gradual changes in her husband, Phillip.

He would mutter and swear to himself. Cyndi sometimes walked into the living room and found him in the middle of a heated conversation with himself.

Then, he claimed bad guys were following him. The phones were tapped, he warned his wife. Their family, he said, was in terrible danger.

Cyndi didn't know what to think. She worried her husband was on drugs.
She tried to keep Little Phillip from finding out. But things got worse.

First, her husband would disappear for a few hours with no explanation. His paranoia and scatterbrained behavior escalated. She found out he hadn’t been showing up at his job as a construction engineer.

Then one morning, he left home. He was gone for days. No phone calls. No contact.

Little Phillip knew something was wrong.
"What do you tell a 5-year-old boy?" Cyndi asked her friends. "What can I say?"

Daddy would come home and then disappear again.

Soon, she got a call from the Police: “We’re looking for Phillip,” she recalled the officer telling her. “We can’t say a whole lot, but we think he was involved in an armed robbery.”

Read the Full Story: Family tragedy inspires woman, son to help homeless


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