How to help someone with schizophrenia
If you are the family, friend or carer of someone with schizophrenia, these are some things you can do to help:
- Focus on the person’s strengths – the things they enjoy or are good at.
- Keep reminding them that they have a role as a member of their family and community.
- Consider doing a family psychoeducation program. This is a chance to learn about the illness, how to communicate better and how to deal with problems. Ask someone from the health-care team about psychoeducation programs near you.
- If you cannot join a psychoeducation program, consider making an appointment with a psychologist to learn more about schizophrenia and how you can help the person.
- Learn to recognise the early warning signs of a psychotic episode and have a plan for what to do.
- Learn motivational techniques to encourage the person to do things for themselves.
- Keep track of their health-care visits and help make sure they don’t miss them.
- Encourage them to choose someone (e.g. a friend, their partner or another family member) who will help and support them for as long as they need help. It is very important to have someone they trust who will keep trying to help them. Sometimes when a person with schizophrenia is unwell they may turn against people they are normally close to.
- Encourage them to participate in one-to-one activities, for example card games, chess, jigsaw puzzles, walking.
- Don’t leave them alone after a hospital visit. When someone with schizophrenia has been in hospital, the first week back at home can be very hard emotionally. During this time, people need lots of support to stay safe.
More about caring for someone with a mental illness
Things that do not help
Do not constantly remind them to take medication. Instead make a mutual plan to work together to overcome forgetfulness, and to set up a routine to follow.
What happens if the person doesn’t want help?
Generally an adult has the right to refuse treatment. But they can be treated without their consent to reduce the risk of serious harm to themselves or others, or if there is a risk that their health will seriously deteriorate.
Support and information for families
Mental Health Carers Australia
1300 554 660
1800 187 263
Supporting Families in Mental Illness (New Zealand)
0800 732 825