Jani Schofield: Childhood Schizophrenia, Living With the Illness
Jani Schofield is a seven-year-old girl living with childhood Schizophrenia, and her story was chronicled on the Oprah Winfrey show today.
The Oprah show spent one week with the Schofield family and saw just how difficult it is to have a child with this mental illness and how each day is a struggle all its own.
The Oprah show executive producer spoke of her experience and said that the Schofield family was very loving and welcoming and that Jani was lovely and kind.
She has many halluncinations however of pets and friends and describes her life as somewhere between 'our world' and 'her world'.
Through experience, I also learned some of Jani's triggers…things that set her off. The first day I was there, I called her by her full name, January. This is something that apparently she doesn't like. As sweet as she was to me, that was the first time she screamed: "No! Don't call me that. I am Jani!" In an instant, she was a different child. I didn't call her January again for the rest of the week.
Jani's parents Michael and Susan Schofield decided this past summer to split their family in to two separate apartments so that they wouldn't have to be concerned with Jani hurting her younger brother Bodhi during a 'psychotic moment'.
It is far from how a typical family lives, but it seemed to work for them. One apartment was structured like the psychiatric hospital for Jani, and the other was just a normal one-bedroom apartment for Bodhi. Michael and Susan split up every night so each child would have one parent, and they rotated nightly.
Jani has to be constantly engaged by her parents or else she may have sme hallucinations and could hurt herself and those around her.
Jani has a friend called Becca who has paranoid schizophrenia and they can play together because they get each other.
But how common is Childhood Schizoprenia?
It is very rare according to Dr. Judith Rapoport, chief of the National Institute of Mental Health's child psychiatry branch, and it is only 1/300th of 1 percent of the adult rate of schizophrenia.
Schizoprenia can be genetic, but it can also be caused by infections in early pregnancy, and if children have any developmental delays such as speech and language, it can be an indicator that they will be at a higher risk for later in life.
Childhood Schizoprenia is not something that happens suddenly; it can occur over a period of months when children start to lose interest in their friends and activities and their behavior will start to seem strange. They will have imaginary friends, but ones that will seem strange and the child will say that they hear voices telling them strange things tha can be disturbing.
Q: What's the long-term prognosis for children with this mental illness?
JR: It's a chronic disease, and the prognosis depends on several things, but very few really ever reach a point that no one knows they have schizophrenia. We do have maybe a fifth of our sample who, on medication, function almost completely normally. But some degree of impairment remains, and the degree of support that they have from their school, their family, their community, makes a huge difference on what the rest of their life is going to be like.