Supporting someone living with schizophrenia

Supporting someone living with schizophrenia can be hard if you don’t know what to do, but your help can make a huge difference. There are a lot of misconceptions attached to the diagnosis, so it is important to ensure you understand schizophrenia, how it might affect your loved one, how you can help and the importance of looking after yourself too.

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a disorder of the brain that affects how an individual behaves, thinks and sees the world around them. The individual has a different perception of reality. Doctors sometimes describe schizophrenia as a type of psychosis. The symptoms present themselves as hallucinations, delusions, withdrawal and changes in behaviour and thoughts. For more information on treatment, causes and symptoms visit our previous blog here.

This video from Osmosis gives some interesting insights into how the different symptoms of schizophrenia may effect an individual’s behaviour on a day-to-day basis:

What you can do to help someone with schizophrenia

Educate yourself

Learning about schizophrenia and the symptoms will help you make informed decisions about the support your loved one may need and enable you to develop communication techniques and solutions to help the individual. The more you know about the diagnosis and symptoms, the more you can encourage self-help strategies and you will be prepared to handle any setbacks. For example, it is useful to know symptoms like losing interest and lack of motivation are part of schizophrenia, it’s not the person choosing to be that way.

Ask how you can help

Ask the individual what they find useful, involve them in putting a plan in place to help them overcome issues they may be faced with. This could be anything from shopping, remembering appointments or medication, helping chose a treatment plan and coping with symptoms.

Recognise signs

Being able to identify the early warning signs of a psychotic episode and relapses could help to prevent a crisis. Some common warning signs are hallucinations, insomnia, paranoia, confused speech, social withdrawal and hostility. Discuss what symptoms you should look out for.

Be prepared with a crisis plan

Sometimes relapse is not preventable and there could be times when an individual’s condition deteriorates quickly. Encourage them to write a crisis plan when they are feeling well. Try to learn their triggers and plan how to cope with them. Include information like emergency contact details for a GP and other professionals, a hospital that could potentially accept psychiatric admissions and any relatives or friends that can take care of dependents and children whilst dealing with a crisis.

Provide encouragement

Your encouragement and support can be vital to your loved one’s recovery. Encourage the individual to be as independent as possible and to use self-help strategies such as managing stress, exercising and seeking social support, this can have a positive affect on someone’s feelings, self esteem and symptoms.

Explore housing and additional support options

Finding the right level of support is vital for both you and your loved one. It’s ok if you can’t provide the support in your own home for someone living with schizophrenia – everyone’s home situation is different, and this may change over time.

You may find that residential facilities such as supervised flats or 24-hour supported living services in your community would benefit both you and your loved one. These services may include access to mental health care professionals and can often act as transitional homes to help avoid relapse/hospitalisation or to help individuals after a hospital admission.

Help monitor mediation

Not all medication suits everyone and it is important to take side effects seriously and report these to your loved one’s doctor. Remembering to take medication and monitoring the effect this has on mood can also be difficult to remember – there are lots of apps and other resources such as charts and pillboxes to help.

Looking after yourself too

Looking after an individual or loved one with schizophrenia can be tough, it is important that you invest time to look after yourself and get support if you need it. Building a support network will benefit both you and your loved one.  Here are some tips to help you:

  • Identify your limitations and be realistic about the level of support you can provide. Ask friends and family to step in if you are struggling.
  • Join a support group to share your experiences with others and gather advice and information from people who know what you are experiencing. You are not alone.
  • Seek out your local support services. There are trained individuals and lots of access to free therapies and respite services.
  • Keep healthcare professionals, GPs and your loved one’s wider support network informed of any setbacks so that together you can alter support plans or access the appropriate services when you need them.

Support from family and loved ones plays a crucial role in schizophrenia treatment and recovery. If you have a loved one living with schizophrenia, you may be dealing with a number of different emotions. It is important to recognise when you also need help and remember that a diagnosis of schizophrenia is not a life-sentence or something to be ashamed of. Recovery is possible, especially with your love and support.

Useful contacts

Carers UK provide advice and support for anyone who provides care: 0808 808 7777

Rethink Mental Illness provide support and information for anyone affected by mental health problems: 0300 5000 927

Hearing Voices Network provide information and support for people who hear voices or have unshared perceptions

Samaritans are open 24/7 for anyone who needs to talk: 116 123 or email [email protected]

Further reading

To read more about schizophrenia and the symptoms click here

To read more about how to manage stress click here

To read more about carers rights click here

 

 

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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