Michael and his brother David grew up with a large group of friends. They often got in trouble together throughout their teens. Though both of them had mental health issues in adolescence, Michael didn’t notice when David started displaying symptoms of schizophrenia.
“He started acting strange near the end of high school, having delusions and was socially withdrawn. Because of our drug use, I wasn’t able to see the signs,” Michael says. “I would say my family was emotionally dysfunctional and my parents didn’t know what to do, or how to help.”
David was 22 when he had a psychotic break and was taken to hospital. He resisted treatment and was in denial about his diagnosis. “It was difficult taking care of my brother when I had my own issues to deal with. My mom didn’t know how to care for him while making sure he was independent,” Michael says.
Though Michael has had his own mental health issues, he wants to speak about his family’s struggle with David in order to help others who have a family member living with schizophrenia. “No one really speaks about what family members go through when they have to care for a loved one. The wellness of the family is very important, you can’t help someone without it,” he says. “I want to tell my story to let families know they’re not alone.”
David is slowly coming to terms with his illness after relapses with drugs and dealing with the justice system. He’s now living with his mother and stepfather after spending time in community housing. “David is taking his medication and works part time,” Michael says. “Over time we’ve had honest and open communication and I know he trusts me, so I need to make sure that I’m well enough in order to help him when he needs me.”
Michael does talks around the Toronto area about his own mental health journey as well as about his family. He’s a member of the St. Michael’s hospital Community Advisory Panel for Mental Health and loves learning and engaging in wellness and recovery based activities.
If you would like to hear Michael speak, contact Michael Torres at email@example.com