Age at interview: 69
Background: A former secondary school teacher, Sasha is 69 years old and lives with her husband in a regional area where they ran a large farm for many years. Now retired, they have three adult children.
For the past 10 years, Sasha and her husband have cared for their youngest son, aged 33. Diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 23, Sasha's son has twice received compulsory treatment. He now lives independently in a unit.
More about Sasha
Looking back on the past ten years that she and her husband have cared for their son, Sasha reflected that, as a carer, 'the only thing you can really change is yourself, your own attitude'.
A former secondary school teacher and a retired farmer, Sasha and her husband live in the country on their farm where they brought up their three, now adult, children. When their youngest son was about 23, they noticed he had started to 'withdraw within himself'. Always a 'calm, pleasant person', he then began to show signs of 'aggression' and at times would 'explode with anger'. Shortly after an incident where he became violent, their son was diagnosed with schizophrenia, aged 25.
Sasha and her husband found out from their son's case worker about his diagnosis of schizophrenia, which is a word their son has never mentioned to them. While he is aware he is 'unwell', Sasha said she thinks he lacks 'insight' because he 'dwells on his physical health' and does not talk about his mental health. From the time of his diagnosis, Sasha's son chose not to include his parents in discussions about his treatment, and psychiatric services gave them very little information, which left them 'hovering around'. Sasha said she thinks they should have 'been allowed to know more' about his treatment and that they should have been given more advice about how to support their son.
A main challenge of caring for her son in a regional area has been that the isolation and long distances in her experience of crisis situations have meant Â psychiatric services and the police would take a long time to arrive. Her son believes that building rapport with practitioners helps save him from 'the big fall' of becoming 'unwell'. However, the lack of services, the fact her son's treatment depends when he is 'well' on him accessing those services, and the high rate of 'personnel change' make it difficult to build that kind of rapport.
Initially, when their son became 'unwell', Sasha and her husband spent a lot of time travelling long distances to see practitioners and services. In the past four years, her son experienced a period of being 'well'; Sasha and her husband bought a flat for him to live in and he was able to manage his own affairs. However, just recently, he had an episode. In response, Sasha and her husband made a conscious decision not to get as drawn into their son's situation as they had done in the past, and 'to take more control' of their lives.
On days when she has felt 'really low', keeping a journal is one thing Sasha said has 'really helped' her. Writing down three 'good things' that happened that gave her 'joy' and reflecting on them, she found, teaches her to accept that she had a good day after all.