Kevin (not his real name) is in his mid twenties. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 13. He hears voices, has a typical disorganized thought process, but is well-treated with medication. He spent time in a mental hospital before placement in a group home. I’ve been spending time with him for about 6 months and thought I might share a couple of things I’ve learned.
1. Kevin needed a friend. He didn’t need a counselor, a psychiatrist, a nurse. He’s been surrounded by clinical folks for over 10 years. He rarely has contact with family and has no long-term friendships. I’ve tried to do something with him every week for the last several months. Sometimes we just go to the coffee shop. We hang-out. We talk. I don’t have an agenda. I don’t think he needs someone who sees him as a project. He’s a young man with an illness that limits him in various ways. Yet, like the rest of us, he needs to be known and loved, and in his own way he can know others and love.
2. Kevin needed someone to listen to him and take him seriously. He’s appeared unmotivated for years, unwilling to do much of anything except sleep, watch a little TV, smoke a cigarette occasionally. A while back I asked him what he wanted in life. Without hesitating he said he’d like to be either the president of the U.S. or the governor of Georgia. Why, I asked. Because the jobs look like they are not stressful, he said, explaining that the president or governor can always get people to do all the work. Hmm. He wasn’t unmotivated, he was just avoiding stress. Ok, I said, let’s work on a plan. Over the next few weeks we met and discussed his political aspirations. Finally, he determined that it would be best to become a state senator. I printed the paperwork and we met to talk about the qualifications. The obstacles were too great. But that wasn’t my call.
3. Kevin needed someone to believe in him. Sitting in the coffee shop I tossed out a random thought. I wonder what it would be like to work in a place like this, cleaning tables or mopping the floor, I said. Kevin said nothing. He looked at me. He looked around. He looked at me again. I would like a job like that, he said. Really? Do you think you could do something like that for 30 minutes a week or maybe an hour, I asked.