Girl With Paranoid Schizophrenia Has Urges to Kill Her Mother

Photo: Families Grapple With Costs of Childhood Schizophrenia: Months-Long Hospitalizations and Marital Stress Among Challenges Facing Families Whose Kids Suffer From Severe Mental Illness

Rebecca Stancil often seems like a typical 9-year-old girl, playing a sweet child's game of rock, paper, scissors with friends and attending pool parties in her Simi Valley, Calif., neighborhood.

But at her darkest moments, she'll deliver a chilling discourse on how to acquire a power tool to kill her mother, who has at times had to lock herself in her bedroom to protect herself from her own daughter.

"I guess I'd steal [a chainsaw] from a store. I could get them anywhere -- or people's garage during the night," Rebecca said. "Break a little glass thingies that you turn. It's a circle and you turn it and you put your hand around and unlock it."

Rebecca has been haunted by images of wolves, men with monster faces, and shadows and shapes that scamper around a darkened room at night since she was 3 years old. Her hallucinations have driven her to act violently toward her mother, Cinnamon Stancil.

"She's pulled knives on me before. She's hit me with whatever random things she can get. She's grabbed the lid off the back of a toilet seat and came after me with that, swinging," said her mother. "It's this adorable face telling you she wants to kill you."

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In December 2008, Rebecca was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder.

"I have paranoid [schizophrenia]," she told ABC News correspondent Jay Schadler. "Paranoid is when you think something's gonna happen but it's really not."

Schizophrenia in children is extremely rare -- 1 in 30,000 is diagnosed in the United States each year. Sustained hallucinations -- those lasting over a period of at least six months -- are among the key criteria in diagnosing the disorder.

"For whatever kind of horrible twist of fate of what makes schizophrenia, [the hallucinations] are very morbid, violent," said Dr. Mark DeAntonio, director of the child and adolescent psychiatric ward at UCLA, who at times, has overseen Rebecca's treatment. "It is not a happy state to be in. It is very nightmarish."

In November 2008, to quell voices in her head, Rebecca tried to kill herself by slitting her wrists with a hairclip.

It was one of the lowest points for her mother, who recalled bringing her daughter to the hospital.

"Picture you're bringing your daughter there saying, 'My daughter wants to kill herself,' you know? And I'm in tears, and ...I can't believe I'm really doing this...basically handing her over to them," Stancil said. "It's almost like you have to grieve that all the thoughts that you had of your kid are gone."

Schizophrenics are up to 10 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.

"I'm worried as she gets older she will have some better ideas as to how to do it, which is terrifying," Stancil said.

'The Man' Haunts Rebecca's Mind

One of Rebecca's recurring hallucinations is "the man" -- a 6-foot-seven vision that can be a friend or foe.

"He follows me everywhere," she said. "I just feel like he's somebody's watching me."

But sometimes, "the man" does more than watch Rebecca.

"She sees him, and he's putting a gun to her head telling her she has to run away," Rebecca's mother recalled. "She got to the point where she wanted to run away, run on the freeway and get hit by a car to stop the man from coming."

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