The Phrenz Group is for people who have been diagnosed as schizophrenic and is a support group under the patronage of the Schizophrenia Association of Ireland. There is a SAI care worker associated with the group. The contact address is SAI, 4 Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin 2. Tel. 676 1988.
The following comprises three short and personal reactions to being part of Phrenz.
Phrenz is a support group for people affected by any of the many forms of schizophrenia. As such it has become a meeting of friends, which partially explains the title. Basically, we are friends. Some of these people I know very well. Some, because they attend meetings less frequently, I do not know so well. One problem with our meetings is that while some are quite talkative and are willing to open up to others, there are other people who, because of shyness, say very little. There is no fixed routine in our meetings. We talk about many things, not only schizophrenia, but also depression and occasionally, people have described what I would call a kind of elation.
Generally, there is some business to be discussed but most of the time we try to enjoy ourselves. Some of our members are very witty, that cheers everybody up. Occasionally we do get serious, like the time we discussed what our own personal warning signs of impending illness are. We have a chairperson who guides the meeting and tries to keep order. This can be difficult at times. We also have a project leader – Patti Fox – who is unaffected by the illness and besides attending the meetings, where she has many valuable suggestions, she organises outings to the seaside and places of historical interest.
Generally, these Phrenz meetings are good humoured and give us a chance to practise our social skills.
I must say I enjoy Phrenz meetings. We are a group of sufferers of Schizophrenia who meet every Monday night at 7.30pm – 9.30 pm, at 4 Fitzwilliam Place.
Irene chairs the meeting and Patti looks on with an enthusiastic eye and politeness to everybody here. We talk about the things that affect us, such as money matters, men friends, women friends, jobs and our ability to get and keep them. We talk about many other things like holding ourselves equal to anybody else, being served in a bar or big things like that.
Our meetings can be industrious and we all can apply ourselves to helping each other. We look at how and why our behaviour might be different to someone else in a particular area. We are all different people with very different personalities and we deal with our problems in very different ways.
There is a good sense of friendship within our group. Irene has done a trojan job looking after the group for the last eight years and her presence is always looked for at the meetings. Patti has, with her usual dedication and her usual, “We’ll see you on Monday night won’t we?” helped the group along with patience and care.
I would like to personally ask: “Why haven’t we got more groups for the people who actually suffer from schizophrenia?” It’s all very well to have relatives/friends groups. They are good in themselves but please, more groups for those who actually suffer from the condition.
I would say myself, speaking from my own experience, that you learn schizophrenia from those who surround you while you’re an infant. Boredom as a child and the direction of your life feeling controlled from outside, all bring about the condition of schizophrenia.
Some thoughts on what being a member of Phrenz means to me.
It was in 1978 when I was 30 that I succumbed to schizophrenia. In 1985 I found out about the existence of the Schizophrenia Association of Ireland by looking up the word schizophrenia in the telephone book. In 1986 I first began attending the newly formed sufferers support group which has recently come to be known as PHRENZ.
I attend the meetings because I need to meet other people who are in the same boat as I am, in order to get comfort and consolation, in a word, support. Also, it’s nice to get out of my mother’s house for a while and I sort of enjoy the bus journey in spite of my paranoia.
I feel grateful to SAI for providing sufferers with this valuable service.
Long may it last.