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Schizophrenia turns a Harvard graduate into a homeless person

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Photo: Washington Post
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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Alfred Postell, a bearded homeless man wearing a towel on his head, roams on the streets of Washington, especially around the intersection of 17th and I Streets NW. He was a Harvard Law school graduate who had graduated with Chief Justice John Roberts. But, after schizophrenia took over him some thirty years back, he never recovered according to The Independent.

Photo: Washington Post
Photo: Washington Post

People in the surrounding areas who frequently saw this homeless man were completely unaware of his history. It was only when media uncovered his past and published reports about it that people came to recognize him.

The Independent quotes one such person who said: “We look at the homeless man sitting on a crate and we think, ‘Smelly beggar.’ We ask ourselves how they can live like that. (…) But many also were full of hopes, dreams and possibilities beyond comprehension before mental illness struck them down.”

But, Alfred Postell refuses to take medication for his illness. The guidelines does not allow the District’s Department of Behavioral Health to administer medication to a mentally ill person without his consent, except in cases where a doctor believes the person to be harmful to himself or others.

Green Door, a mental health agency, had taken him under care in February. But he refused to take any medication.

He remained non-compliant with treatment over the next month and was found by the treatment team on a downtown street in D.C. on March 18, 2015,” writes the psychologist of the Green Door who treated Alfred Postell according to The Independent. She further writes that he willingly spoke to the staff who wanted to monitor his progress, but refused to take any medication.

Green Door President Richard Bebout lists two probable reasons why many mentally-ill homeless people refuse to take help from service agencies: one, the paranoia that manifests due to mental illness; two, “adapted fearfulness.”

Some homeless people who had previously undergone bad experiences while living in the shelter (like being attacked), tend to hold on to their fears and hence are distrustful of service agencies.

For these reasons, people like Alfred Postell refuse to take any medication or help from service agencies, and they prefer to live on their own way as they see fit.

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Young Men More Vulnerable to Mental Illness Than Women

The researchers found that the incidence of first-episode psychosis is high among ethnic minorities and in areas with less owner-occupied housing

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mental illness
For the study, the researchers estimated the incidence of first-episode psychosis in six countries -- England, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Brazil. Pixabay

Young men are more likely to experience first-episode psychosis, defined as the first manifestation of one or more severe mental disorders including schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder, and depression, compared to women of the same age group, says a new study.

The findings published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry also showed that ethnic minorities and people living in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas are also vulnerable to severe mental illness.

The study showed that the incidence of first-episode psychosis was higher among men aged 18 to 24 than among women in the same age group. Pixabay

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“The study confirmed that the incidence of first-episode psychosis varies considerably between major cities and rural areas. It also showed that environmental factors probably play a crucial role in this significant variation,” said one of the researchers Paulo Rossi Menezes, Professor at University of Sao Paulo Medical School (FM-USP) in Brazil.

“Until the end of the twentieth century, the etiology of psychotic disorders was believed to be mainly genetic, but the results of this study show that environmental factors are extremely important,” Menezes said.

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mental illness
Menezes said this finding confirms fairly consistent data in the literature. Pixabay

He noted that the incidence of first-episode psychosis among young adult males is higher than among young adult females according to previous research, which also shows that as men approach 35, it tends to converge with the incidence among women.

ALSO READ: Lack of awareness causes mental illness in over 6% Indians

In women aged 45-54, it is slightly higher than among men in the same age group.

“We don’t know exactly why there are these differences in incidence between sexes and age groups, but they may be linked to the process of cerebral maturation: the brain matures between the ages of 20 and 25, and during this period, men seem to be more vulnerable to mental disorders than women,” Menezes said.

The researchers also found that the incidence of first-episode psychosis is high among ethnic minorities and in areas with less owner-occupied housing. (IANS)