One of our readers wrote in to us with a problem that has been bothering him for a while. He stated his case thus:
She is a 21-year-old University student in India, in a dilemma. I know her through an online community where we discuss human behaviour.
She has been infatuated by a senior lecturer who was a part of her Master’s degree program and is now in contact with him online and carrying on a chat on many topics of mutual interest. This man is in his late 40s and a schizophrenic who has to rely on antipsychotics to keep himself going, as he himself admits. My concerns for her are that she may find herself getting too attached in a way that she may even become liable for any tragic consequence that he may end up in on account of his mental state.
She is totally infatuated with him and finds it extremely hard to remove herself from the relationship, even though we have discussed her predicament and possible risks.
This young lady hails from a very conservative OBC caste whose expectations and practices totally defy her way of thinking and the independence she seeks in life as an educated human being. Her parents are in constant conflict. She knows she will have no choice but to marry the man her father chooses for her. She feels she is trapped in a cage and the only hope she may have in life is to achieve her PhD, if she can, as soon as possible, which may provide her a small window to escape from this situation.
What are the risks of being in a relationship with someone with schizophrenia? How can she best deal with those, and the rest of her issues?
I want to advise the young lady practically and realistically.
Deepak Kashyap, the Counselling Psychologist on our panel, has this advice.
I have two opinions on this matter, hopefully reviewing these two you’ll be able to make a better decision for yourself. So yes, schizophrenia is a difficult situation to deal with, in oneself and in people we love.
However, not all kinds of schizophrenia are out of hand and dangerous.
There is a lot of stigma in society around dating someone with a mental condition. Most of that stigma arises from pure ignorance about mental health in general and that condition in particular, but also one needs to remember that some of that stigma also arises from the lived experiences of people with severe mental conditions such as schizophrenia or from the experiences of those who have lived with people with major psychological issues. So without having reviewed this particular gentleman in question, I will withhold any comments on him personally, but I will say this, that not every schizophrenic person is impossible to date and live with, especially if they are themselves committed to doing what can be done to better their condition.
However, to jump into a romantic situation like this, one must be clear about the motives one has and the skills one needs to learn about this unique situation one is choosing to be a part of. Love alone may not be able to sustain the companionship without being equipped with unique skills that are required to deal with that particular person. This is true for any relationship. For which you will have to have extended and frank conversations about it with the person himself and with a counsellor as well.
It is important for people to understand the difference between actively hurting others and others being hurt by what they are doing in and with their own lives. The latter is not your responsibility.
Now, as far as the question of family goes, she would have to show courage to chart her own path. I know it is easier said than done, but it is important for me to say it and for her to do it. It would be a difficult path to take and make her life inconvenient; however, one’s freedom to be comes at a price. She would have to struggle with wanting to please everyone around her.
Now, whether or not to marry or get into a relationship with a man double your age who is struggling with schizophrenia is a separate question from whether one should stand for their own life and choices one is making in it. If necessary I personally would not even shy away from legal help in doing what I wanted to do. Having said that, with all the fighting to gain independence of my life, I would still not abandon rationality and make hasty decision