It can be difficult to encourage people to take medication or to seek treatment for many illnesses. A loved one with schizophrenia might be even more challenging to convince to take medication and get treatment. Some people with the mental health disorder do not think clearly about their condition. There may be some who experience a lack of awareness about it. It is also possible that some people don’t think they need medication or treatment because they believe their delusions are real. It is essential to not give up on these refusals but instead support the individual in all ways. Your role as a family member or friend is valuable and needed.
When you spend time talking with family or friends about their mental health problems, it provides everyone with more information about the mental illness and offers support and guidance. In addition, it can also lead to earlier treatment and greater compassion and understanding, according to the federal mental health website MentalHealth.gov.
It is OK to ask questions, but be sure to listen carefully to your loved one’s answers. Find a quiet, comfortable, and safe place to open dialogue about what they are experiencing. Try not to be judgmental or overload them with facts. Your position is to be a sympathetic listener. Another way to help a loved one with schizophrenia is to suggest going with them to see a doctor.
Often, people think that having a mental health disorder is stigmatizing. It might help them to know that a doctor can help them deal with specific symptoms. There are medications available that can alleviate some symptoms. It may take some trial and error before the right ones and their doses are found. But it is worth trying.
How to Help the Reluctant Loved One
If your loved one is reluctant to go to the doctor, they may just feel they do not have control over the situation. You might want to offer a list of respected physicians for them to choose from. You may ask them if they have any doctors they prefer or to make a list of some to consider.
Let them have a voice in their own treatment. No one likes to be excluded when discussing treatment. Listen to what they say without judgment.
Encourage self-help steps. In between episodes of schizophrenia, ask them if they want to join you in a healthy meal or ask if they are eating healthily. Mention some stress relief activities, like walking, exercising, listening to music, or other quiet options. You might want to inquire if they are receiving good social support. Strong social support can boost their self-esteem, and help them feel less helpless and hopeless, says HelpGuide.
Other steps you can take to support your loved one with schizophrenia, as suggested by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
When they are experiencing delusions or hallucinations, respond calmly. Don’t tell them it’s all imaginary because they believe what they see is real. Explain respectfully that you see things differently. Know what the triggers are for them and be aware of the situations that bring them. You can help your loved one try to avoid the trigger points or curtail regular activities.
Encourage them to take their medications even when they say they feel fine. We all take medicine when not well and when we feel better. We may not like some side effects that come with the drugs, but we learn how to manage them. You might want to explain that the medication(s) prevents symptoms from coming back or getting worse.
Avoid drinking alcohol or using drugs when with your loved one with schizophrenia. These substances can worsen their symptoms. If they are already using substances to self-medicate, reach out to a mental health or substance abuse treatment center for guidance.
What Not to Do
Just as there are some suggestions about how to best help your loved one, there are suggestions about what not to do. People with severe mental illness, like schizophrenia, need positive encouragement, not negative comments. Here are some points to keep in mind:
- Do not remind them all the time to take their medication.
- Do not use a confrontational or threatening tone of voice when talking to them about getting treatment.
- Do not include people that your loved one does not trust or feel close to. This only causes more stress and anxiety for them.
- Do not say things that aren’t true, such as “I know how you feel,” because if you don’t have schizophrenia, you don’t know how they feel.
- Don’t minimize their feelings when they tell you about any delusions or hallucinations or if they are feeling paranoid.
- Don’t confront them about their delusions or inappropriate thoughts.
- Don’t interrupt them even if they are rambling. Let them say what they want to say.
- Use easy directions and language. They may be confused when in an episode and complex directions, or language can be confusing. Make it easy for them.
- Don’t yell or dismiss what they are saying, as it can be agitating for your loved one. Instead, speak in a calm voice and let them know you heard them.
What to Do If Your Loved One Refuses Treatment
There may be several reasons why your loved one with schizophrenia refuses treatment. The most common one is that they don’t think they are sick and don’t have any awareness of it. This is what is known as anosognosia. NAMI says that the person is experiencing a “lack of insight” or “lack of awareness.” The formal medical term is Greek and means “to not know a disease.”
It can be very challenging to get your loved one to accept treatment. It might take a great deal of patience and determination. Practice patience and consider offering a reward if they agree. There are other strategies to help your loved one get treatment.
Ask if they want help finding a mental health center in the area to call or visit. If so, make a list together of a few places. If they have trouble remembering to take their medication(s), ask them if setting a cell phone reminder would work. Offer to give them a ride to and from therapy appointments and do it if they agree. Ask them if they want to make a crisis plan and if so, ask if they want your help with it.
The UNC Health Talk column offers more advice if your loved one has psychotic symptoms. They advise giving yourself and the person emotional and physical space. Don’t touch them without asking first. You could also calmly but firmly suggest you can take them to the doctor, therapist, or counselor, but do so in a position of support, such as in a sitting position, rather than face to face. If they trust you, go with them to their medical or psychological professionals.
If you feel there they might become violent or threaten to harm themselves, call for emergency help.
Help for You, Your Family, and Friends
Now, what about you and everyone else who loves this person with schizophrenia? Who’s taking care of the caregivers? You must take care of yourself, or else you will not be able to take care of the other person. The HelpGuide offers these suggestions for taking care of you.
Know your own limits. Be realistic about how much support you can give. Don’t overextend yourself and become exhausted.
Join a support group of others in the same position. Support groups are great places to share and give advice, support, and experiences. You may also learn of other sources to turn to when needed, like Vista Pines Health, a mental health treatment center in South Florida.
Lean on the people you trust for strength and support.
Get enough sleep every night, eat healthily, and get some exercise. A walk around the block might be just what you need to de-stress and refresh.
Take time for you. Block time in your day to spend time doing nothing or something relaxing and enjoyable. You deserve it.
Schizophrenia Treatment at Vista Pines Health
Vista Pines Health is located in South Florida. Our center is conveniently located near the major interstates and within an easy drive from the nearest international airports. We provide evidence-based therapies for those with mental health disorders and illnesses, including schizophrenia.
We offer inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment, along with substance abuse treatment. You might participate in psychotherapy, individual and group therapies, cognitive behavioral therapy, coping skills, and life skills classes, and more. Vista Pines Health is here to help.