Schizophrenia: 5 Ways to Provide Support to People Suffering from this Terrible Disease
The rate of mental health illnesses—such as schizophrenia, depression, and others—has been continuously rising for many years. Almost 10.7% of the global population is suffering from one or more mental illnesses. The number is likely to increase at a double rate in the future. Mental health illnesses have a wide spectrum of occurrence. One condition leads to the other which worsens to cause something more serious. For instance, people who suffer from stress and likely to develop anxiety which in severe cases leads to depression or depressive disorders. The growing disease rate across the world is assuming an alarming condition and demands an immediate address. But what is the solution?
How can we prevent people from falling prey to these illnesses? And most importantly, what can be done to help people who are already suffering? Are medications enough? Do therapies alone work? Well, sadly no. People with mental illnesses require extra care, something more than just a sleeping pill, something beyond therapies and that is love and support. People living with these people can help them the best. Believe it, your extra care, your lovely gesture, your affection, or your efforts can do what the medicines cannot!
This article will talk about supporting people who have schizophrenia. But before we move towards it, let’s have an overview of what the disease is. Because you cannot cater to a situation until you know about its roots!
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is one of the most serious mental disorders known today. People with the disease interpret reality abnormally. They experience a combination of delusions, hallucinations, and disordered thinking & behavior. Their mental state is so disabling that it can damage their everyday functioning. The disease often requires a lifetime treatment but if diagnosed at early stages many complications can be prevented and the situation can be controlled significantly.
Common symptoms of the condition include,
- Troubled thinking and emotions
- Disorganized speech
- Impaired daily functioning
- False/unreal beliefs
- Hearing and seeing things that don’t exist
Delusions are very common with schizophrenics. You may think you’re being harmed or you’ve exceptional fame, you may think somebody is in love with you or anything which isn’t the part of reality. You might see and hear things that are not true, you can assume a pseudo situation but it will be an absolutely normal experience for you.
You are likely to have ineffective communication and disorganized speech due to disoriented thoughts and emotions. The disease is likely to trigger abnormal motor behavior which ranges from childish acts to unexpected stress and anxiety. The patient finds it difficult to function and perform normally, neglects personal hygiene, loses interest in daily activities, withdraws from social interaction, etc.
Teenage schizophrenics mostly present the following symptoms;
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- A drop in academic performance
- Troubled sleep
- Irritability or undue frustration
- Depressed mood
- Lack of motivation
- Drug abuse
- Visual hallucinations
In severe cases, schizophrenics might develop suicidal thoughts. In fact, schizophrenia is one of those diseases that are likely to end at suicide. Therefore, effective treatment is a must! There is no ultimate treatment for the disease. No specific medicine has been designed to rectify the situation. However, a combination of medicines and therapies help to improve the situation and symptoms. But the real help is the human-human interaction. How? Let’s find out.
Supporting people with schizophrenia
Schizophrenics often lack awareness of the fact that their problems are due to a mental disorder that requires clinical attention. Therefore, the responsibility normally falls on the friends and family to help them and get them help. The love and support of a friend or family members play a significant role in the treatment of schizophrenia and its recovery. If you are confused about how can you be a help to a schizophrenic, here are some tips and suggestions for you. Following the below-mentioned guidelines can help you in bringing a schizophrenic out of pain and discomfort.
Accept and make the patient accept the illness
The first and foremost thing to be done is acceptance. You need to accept the disease yourself and make the patient accept it as well. Both of you need to understand that having a mental illness isn’t a mark of disgrace. Just like your body gets sick, your brain can too and schizophrenia is the same. It is commonly observed that people with the disease and their loved ones often struggle with difficult emotions like fear, guilt, and anger.
They feel helpless, worried, and embarrassed about the stigma of the disease. People often hide the illness from other people. However, you must know that recovery is possible and it is only possible if you accept the disease and its difficulties, don’t consume your mind and heart over it, and pay attention to the remedial measures.
Always remember, you can only give hope to people when you are hopeful. Dealing with a schizophrenic can be a little challenging but keep your hopes high and know that you have to be somebody’s strength.
Educate yourself about the disease
Now that you’ve come to know about a loved one suffering from schizophrenia and you’ve accepted it and decided to help him/her, educate yourself about the condition first. Learn about the disease, its symptoms, behavioral and emotional changes of the patients, associated risks, possible remedies and treatments, and what kind of care does the patient requires.
Try to read as much as you can and consult a certified psychiatrist. All of these efforts will help you make an informed decision about choosing the best coping strategies. You can teach self-help strategies to the patients and empower them to work towards recovery.
Encourage them to start with a treatment
Encouraging the patient to start with a reliable treatment is the keystone of helping schizophrenics. Seeing a doctor and taking medicines is necessary but you need to encourage the patient for self-help techniques. The more the patient will be willing to recover, the greater will be the chances for the recovery. Common self-help tricks include;
- Having a healthy diet
- Managing stress
- Doing exercise daily
- Seeking social support
Your encouragement and support can strengthen the hopes of the patients. If your schizophrenic friend or relative is reluctant to see a doctor or begin with self-help, give them options like taking somebody with them or going to their preferred clinician. If their resistance continues, divert their attention to a particular symptom and ask them to fix it.
For instance, you can tell them that you guy will be seeing a doctor for insomnia or troubled sleep and not schizophrenia or ask them to work to improve their sleep. Keep on highlighting symptoms one by one and motivate them to work on them.
Build a support network
For better support, care, and encouragement for someone with schizophrenia, you need to find as much help as possible. The greater the support, the better. For this purpose, a support network works the best. You need to understand that you cannot do it all alone. You’ve certain limits and so does your level of support and care. Too much stress and responsibility can burn you out. So, seek help around.
Encourage the patient to join a support group and meet other people with the same condition who are struggling with their ways to recovery. Allow them to share their experiences and figure out ways of helping each other. You can also join a support group of people working to help schizophrenics. You can learn the tactics to cater to the situation.
Evaluate the medication
If the patient is undergoing proper medical treatment, you need to monitor their medicines and therapy sessions. Make sure that the patient is going for the appointments and therapy sessions. Evaluate their medication routine to keep them on track. If there are any visible side effects, report them as soon as possible. Medication reminder apps, weekly pillboxes, and calendars can help you with that. Track the progress and keep the doctor updated.
If the doctor has stopped the medicines, watch for any sign of relapse. Relapse can cause a severe crisis if left unnoted. Common signs of the disease relapse include;
- Social withdrawal
- Deterioration of personal hygiene
- Increasing paranoia
- Confusing or nonsensical speech
- Strange disappearances
If you make all the above-mentioned efforts carefully and sincerely, your patient is likely to recover soon. However, the time of recovery depends on the severity of the condition, the level of treatment provided, and the patient’s will. Despite all your efforts, if any emergency occurs, don’t panic and manage your stress effectively. Always have an emergency plan with you.
For instance, if your patient is being hospitalized contact the therapist and the psychiatrist first of all. Ask them for reliable advice. They can help you worry less during such a crisis. Schizophrenia isn’t contagious at all. So, stay close to such patients as much as possible. Help them whenever and however you can. Be their emotional support and help them come out of the darkness as quickly as possible.
After receiving his undergraduate degree in psychology, Scott went on to work as a teacher and educational counselor while working towards his master’s degree. He has spent several years working with children and adults and has personal experience with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, Dyslexia, and Depression.