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It can be hard to know what to do for your loved one who is living with schizophrenia. From coping with their diagnosis to preventing worst-case scenarios, the tips below can help you help them.

how can i help my loved one
with schizophrenia?

Adjusting to life with schizophrenia:

  • Work to understand the illness and its symptoms – reading this website is a great place to start!

  • Be realistic about how your family life may change following diagnosis, but try to stick to regular routines
    if you can

  • Have patience if your loved one isn’t ready to acknowledge the illness just yet

  • Stay positive and encourage your loved one to go after realistic goals

  • Be honest and direct about your concerns, but also listen to theirs

  • Take note of what frustrates or worries you and/or other members of your family, but tackle only one
    problem at a time

  • Find a local self-help group to support your own journey, or talk to someone you can trust about your feelings

  • Take care of yourself, emotionally and physically, and make time for things you enjoy

Managing specific symptoms and/or side effects of medications:

  • Hallucinations or delusions:

    • Let them know that you understand that what they see/hear/believe is real for them but that these
      things are not real for you; don’t debate who is right

    • Avoid being flippant, sarcastic or humorous when talking about their idea of reality

    • Distract them if you can

    • Ask what will make them feel safe and try to make that happen

  • A lack of emotions:

    • Ask how they are feeling – it may surprise you to hear they do have emotions, even if they aren’t
      showing them

  • Social isolation or withdrawal:

    • Schedule activities they usually like, with people and in places that make them feel comfortable

  • Trouble concentrating:

    • Speak in short, clear sentences

    • Give one piece of information at a time and allow time for it to sink in

    • Communicate at times when they seem most interested

  • Excessive sleep:

    • Encourage more daily activities that would keep them engaged

  • Weight gain:

    • Involve them in simple daily activities to get them out of the house, like running errands

    • Encourage regular physical activity like walking, jogging or swimming – they might be more inclined if you or another family member joins in

    • Stock the house with healthy snacks and get rid of junk food

Early Psychosis Intervention Portal   |   Hamilton, ON   |   905-525-8213   |

Avoiding symptom relapses and crisis situations:

  • Watch out for common triggers, such as stress, alcohol and drug use, or missed medication

  • Set routines and stick to them to reduce stress

  • Focus on one problem at a time and work together to solve it

  • Keep activities and group events short

Working to prevent suicide:

  • Be aware of common warning signs and risk factors for suicide in schizophrenia:

    • A previous attempt

    • Talking or writing about suicide

    • Hearing voices that encourage dangerous actions

    • Frequent relapses

    • Depression or strong feelings of hopelessness

    • A preoccupation with death

    • A history of substance abuse

  • Remove any weapons from your home

  • Encourage open communication with your loved one

  • Contact a doctor immediately if your loved one threatens suicide or makes an attempt

Fighting stigma about schizophrenia:

  • Focus on your loved one as a person – they are more than their schizophrenia

  • Be a role model when it comes to accepting their diagnosis and what it means for their day-to-day life

  • Remind your loved one and anyone else in their circle that not all problems are related to their illness

  • Educate yourself and others as much as possible – stigma is rooted in ignorance

  • Get involved in advocacy groups aimed at changing attitudes towards schizophrenia and the people
    who have it

  • Encourage your loved one to be open about their condition and to tell their story

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