WHY IS LEAP NEEDED?
The usual approach to persons with serious mental illness (SMI) who have anosognosia is to try and educate them about an illness they are certain they do not have.
Research shows that the symptom of anosognosia is not responsive to treatment and education. Attempts to educate and confront the person only results in anger, alienation, and avoidance of treatment. The “usual approach” not only doesn’t work—it makes matters worse.
“The result of education, explanation and confrontation is: The person we want to help runs away from us and all we are offering!” Dr. Xavier Amador
Family members of persons with anosognosia for SMI and the mental healthcare and criminal justice professionals that work with them are struggling, usually alone, to gain the trust of persons who believe they are not ill and don’t need help. They watch helplessly as persons with SMI go untreated and end homeless, in jails, die from suicide, or end angry and paranoid about the very people who are trying hardest to help them.
Tens of thousands of families and professionals have been trained in LEAP worldwide with very positive results. But the need for LEAP in the USA is much larger. About 14.6 million family members, healthcare professionals and criminal justice professionals combined are dealing with the tragic problems anosognosia for SMI creates daily.
The LEAP® communication program also has science-based value for professionals and for family members of SMI persons who are aware they have an illness. But LEAP is first and foremost for those wanting to help SMI persons accept treatment. As Dr. Amador wrote in his book “I am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help!” (Vida Press, NY 2012) the problem we seek to address is very common.
“David Kaczynski, the brother of Theodore Kaczynski, the “Unabomber,” told me that even though his brother had terrorized the nation for two decades, the Kaczynski family had received countless letters expressing support, understanding, and condolences from people who were related to someone with a serious mental illness. Like David and his mother, they had experienced the helplessness and heartache associated with caring for someone who was in denial about having a mental illness… Far more common than the tragedies that make the headlines are those that test the bonds of family and the moral resolve of the therapists and doctors who are entrusted with the care of our loved ones. When once again medication is found in the trash or stuffed under a mattress, when we are told to mind our own business—that we are the only one who has a problem, when yet another doctor’s appointment is missed, we all come one step closer to throwing our arms up in despair and walking away.”
There are over 6 million people in the United States with SMI. The results of many studies indicate unequivocally that about 50% of all people don’t believe they’re ill and refuse to take the medications that have been prescribed for them. That amounts to more than 3 million seriously mentally ill Americans who don’t realize they’re ill.
How many family members are in the position of trying to help a loved one who doesn’t want help? If we count only the parents of these individuals, there are twice that number of family members! Add just one sibling or offspring, and the number becomes truly staggering (over 12 million family members in the USA).
Mental healthcare and criminal justice professionals also benefit from LEAP: psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, prescribing psychiatric nurse practitioners, other psychiatric prescribers, psychiatric social workers, psychologists and case workers working to help SMI patients who have anosognosia. Such professionals number well over 1 million.
Add to this number Criminal Justice Professionals (law enforcement, Corrections Officers, Judges, prosectors and defense attorneys) who are very interested in the education and solutions provided by the LEAP® Program and the total target number of people who can benefit from this evidence-based, intuitive, and common-sense approach is immense.