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Love is the drug for the mentally ill

Simple kindness eases symptoms of mentally ill

Love is the drug for the mentally ill
Shinjiro and Ikuko Go
by correspondent, Tokyo

May 21, 2012

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In January 2000, Shinjiro Go and his wife Ikuko started a farm with their son near the coast in Numazu City, Shizuoka, about 100km southwest of Tokyo. The Catholic couple did so out of concern for their son, who had been hospitalized eight times in nine years and who was taking an increasing amount of prescribed medicine. “He can’t go on living like this,” the worried parents thought. Their son had been diagnosed with schizophrenia 22 years ago, when he was 20 years old. Shinjiro, 72, finally started learning about mental illness in earnest 11 years later and even earned a national certification required to become a psychiatric social worker. However, Shinjiro says, “My understanding of such illnesses was still basic, and I deeply regret how badly I handled my son’s situation at first.” These days, though, Shinjiro’s son’s condition has improved, requiring him to only take half the amount of medicine he had been on. He hasn’t been hospitalized for the last eight years. The Go family farm, Easy Go Farm, is now a place of “mental recuperation” for the mentally disabled and their families. Recently, Shinjiro has compiled a booklet of short reflections about struggling with mental illnesses. The 14-page booklet contains stories related to him from 10 people who suffered from psychological problems themselves or who had loved ones who were affected. “The root cause of mental illness is something science hasn’t solved yet, so even if we can control the symptoms with medicines, we can almost never cure the disease itself entirely,” Shinjiro says. “I’ve come to understand that improving the patient’s interpersonal relationships can have a big impact. I have heard from many who have come to Easy Go Farm that they have learned by improving relationships with others just how powerful love is. I decided it would be a pity to let those stories go unheard. I want a deeper connection with others who live with this.” Shinjiro has realized how happy he could be if, through his booklet, he might be able to spread the word about the many forms of love, and especially the love of God, which is unearned, yet unconditional. Without putting too much emphasis on religion in particular, he thinks he might instill “a sense of the love of Christ” in others, and help that love permeate their daily lives. One story in the booklet comes from the parents of a 40-year-old schizophrenic man, whose disease had seen him spend a number of years in hospital. Finally, the couple tried a new tactic: they resolved to let their son remain at home and to stay with him 24 hours a day. The breakthrough finally came two months later. In the five years since that time, his medicine has been reduced and he has not been back to the hospital. Another entry comes from a 30-year-old man suffering from schizophrenia. His symptoms involved him harboring a dislike of his family, and he couldn’t shake feelings of mistrust and fear when he was around them. However, because of his mother's perseverance, her kind words finally penetrated his heart. Today, the family is happy. Shinjiro has even produced an edition of his booklet in English. “It’s my dream to collect 100 of these stories and publish them in a complete book. I’d love to include entries from abroad, too, and I am already accepting manuscripts detailing ‘eyewitness accounts of love’.”  
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