COMMUNITY CARE / The vulnerable people who find themselves facing a future of change: The schizophrenic: Mother's concern over son left to fend for himself

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The Independent Online
IN SIX MONTHS, David intends to be fending for himself in the community - without medication. But if he has stopped taking the drugs, according to his mother, he will be back in the psychiatric hospital from which he was discharged in January.

David (not his real name) is 26, and schizophrenic. When he becomes ill, he gets violent and agitated and strange ideas fill his head. Strong doses of drugs - 1,400 milligrams of Lithium and one and a half tablets of Carbamazepine each night - help calm him down and bring him closer to normality. When he is in a stable state he does not think he needs the drugs. When he stops taking them he becomes violent.

David, from Peterborough, has been locked into this cycle for nine years. He been compulsorily detained in psychiatric units four times since his first attack in 1984. The attacks have been progressively worse and during his last year-long stay in hospital he was given electric shock treatment to quieten him down.

The illness struck suddenly. 'I just went haywire,' David said. 'I started talking to everyone. I didn't have any inhibitions any more. I got some funny ideas into my head. I thought everyone had lost their train of thought except me. I thought everyone had been capped by the tripods so that they only acted on habit and what they had previously learnt. The tripods are three-legged. It's something I invented. Capped means your powers of thought have gone, as if a cap is put on.'

His mother recalls: 'There was a bit of a struggle as the police and ambulancemen took him away. Since then he has become more violent. The last time he thumped me. Once he grabbed me round the throat. It's very frightening. But he doesn't remember a thing.'

After a year in hospital, David decided he had been in long enough. He found himself a bed-sit where his landlady cooks dinner. Once a fortnight he sees a social worker who asks if he is taking the medication. His mother worries he is not really able to look after himself. 'If he stops taking the tablets, as he seems determined to do, it will just be a matter of time.'