I know of a girl who is very intelligent. At 13 years, she can hold a conversation with an adult in fluent English for more than an hour. As any teenager would be, she is full of questions.
Recently, everyone got shocked when a teacher found a paper scribbled with things that led her to think she had been introduced to some sort of indoctrination. She wrote things related to Islamist extremism, I’d rather not discuss here.
Her mother called me, worried sick, that someone was introducing her 13-year-old to terrorism, right under her nose, yet she didn’t know. The teenager told her parents stories of two Muslim girls in class 8, who introduced her to the people who were teaching her the things she had written.
Upon much probing by her parents, she made up stories of how the people who introduced her to Islam said that they would kill her if she revealed their identities.
One day she arrived in the house past midnight, and said that she was just around. That she feared punishment from her parents.
She even told her father that she has the gift of disappearing. All her stories were disjointed, yet at the same time scary. This is because she talked with such confidence, looking you straight in the eye that you’d think this girl knew what she was talking about.
Another day, she spent the night out and her parents found her in police custody. The police had picked her from a shopping center, where she was stranded and took her as a lost child. You can imagine the anguish her mother went through.
There were different theories as to why she was behaving the way she was. Witchcraft topped that list, being that they had just traveled back from the village.
She was finally taken to hospital and saw a teenage psychiatrist. “Mom, no one has bewitched your child. She is just unwell”, the psychiatrist told the distraught mother. She was diagnosed with adolescent schizophrenia.
She makes up stories from what she interacts with daily, and cannot tell the difference between the real and the factitious.
Schizophrenia is a serious disorder which affects how a person thinks, feels and acts. Someone with schizophrenia may have difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imaginary; may be unresponsive or withdrawn; and may have difficulty expressing normal emotions in social situations.
The brain also undergoes major changes during puberty, and these changes could trigger psychotic symptoms in people who are vulnerable due to genetics or brain differences.
She is on anti psychotic medication, which have major side effects. Now her mother has to lock her and her two siblings in the house whenever she goes out. She does this to avert another disappearing act. Soon she will go back to school, but under strict supervision.
This case prompted me to think about societal perceptions of mental illnesses. People are quick to point out the spiritual aspect, witchcraft, but never accept that it could be just an illness.
What do you think about this case?
How would you have dealt with it?
What better ways could the society, and parents deal with mentally ill children?
Let’s engage in the comments section.