On Thursday night, HLN’s Dr. Drew was joined in studio by Michael Schofield, who is raising a schizophrenic daughter.
Doctors say the mental illness is far worse in children than in adults. January Schofield, 9, was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 6.
Some of her hallucinations, like “400 the Cat” and “Wednesday the Rat,” are said to bite and scratch her until she does what they want her to do. For example, they might tell her to jump out of a building, or attack her younger brother Bodhi.
“One of my greatest wishes is that I could actually … see what Jani sees because it is so easy when she is talking about them to just dismiss it,” Schofield said.
In the summer of 2009, Schofield and his wife Susan had to make a difficult choice. They moved into two separate apartments, one for each of the two children. They traded off on taking care of each one.
“Susan actually came up with that idea because the Department of Mental Health said the only option they were giving us was to send Jani to an out-of-state residential [program] and we weren't willing to send her.”
However, the Southern California family moved back into one apartment in October 2011 after Jani showed signs of improvement.
Clinical psychiatrist Dr. Dale Archer told the couple that the first thing parents generally do is try to blame themselves.
“We know today that this is all related to DNA, genetics, and biochemistry in the brain,” he said. “[We] have to understand [that] genetics and brain chemistry are primary. But you know, 30 years ago, we thought meds were the answer. We know now that meds are very, very important, but we also know that therapy is every bit as important. And a good, stable family environment can make a huge difference, [as well as] group therapy and individual therapy.”
The Schofields have since founded The Jani Foundation. It’s a group that hopes to gain the attention of government agencies and others to provide better care for mentally ill children.
Michael Schofield has also recently written a memoir set to be published in August called J anuary First: A Child's Descent into Madness and Her Father's Struggle to Save Her".
Jani has started a new school program, providing her one-on-one support with a teacher and a school aide.