The first thing you should know if your loved one is diagnosed with schizophrenia is that it’s not a death sentence. Around 50% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia experience significant recovery or improvement. Schizophrenia gets a bad rap and it is possible that people living with this diagnosis experience the most stigma and discrimination of all psychological disabilities. Here’s some things you can do in order to support your loved one and support yourself.
- Reach out to a support network. There are organizations like NAMI that provide support for carers and loved ones of psychological disability. Reach out. You may need support yourself.
- Don’t panic. Schizophrenia is a disability that is often associated with self-harm and dangerous and unusual behavior. Find out the facts–not only about the disability in general, but the facts about your loved one. Each individual is different.
- Don’t overstep your bounds. Let your loved one take as much responsibility for their care as they can. This is patient empowerment and not only is it right, it also assists in wellness.
- Don’t see schizophrenia as an “incurable brain illness.” New research suggests that this adds to stigma. Instead, try to understand the abuses or traumas your loved one has experienced. Empathize with your loved one.
- Believe your loved one. It’s easy to dismiss people with psychological disabilities as “crazy” and therefore not to be believed. This may be the worst form of gaslighting.
- Understand the drugs, if any, your loved one is taking. Many people do not want to take psychotropic drugs. They may have good reasons. Many psychotropic drugs are linked with harm and side effects. Each individual has to decide for herself whether to take drugs and which drugs to take.
- See your loved one as a person, not “an illness.” It’s easy to look at someone with a diagnosis like schizophrenia–or any disability–and see them as their disability. Remember, your loved one is a person with thoughts, feelings and ideas all their own.
- Don’t advocate for involuntary inpatient care unless there’s really good reason. Many people who experience inpatient care have feelings of trauma from these experiences. The abrupt, and often demeaning, way they are taken out of society can also add to your loved ones symptoms–and even cause other disabilities, such as PTSD. Encourage your loved one to be in and a part of society.
- Be a good role model. This goes hand-in-hand with 1. above. If you think your loved one should care for her health, care for yours. After all, no one likes a hypocrite. Moreover, you’ll be doing yourself a favor and doing one for your loved one, too.
- Remember that the experiences associated with schizophrenia are on the plane of normal human existence. Around 5-28% of people report hearing voices other people do not hear. Many people get paranoid in this day and age. These are common feelings and experiences. Cognitive-behavioral models of schizophrenia see the experiences associated with schizophrenia as simply on the plane of human existence.
Many people report the stigma associated with schizophrenia is worse than the actual disability itself. If you have tips to share, feel free to leave them in comments.