How to support a schizophrenic loved one:
1. Be patient with us!
I promise that we’re doing our best. We likely have much less energy and motivation than most people and our brains don’t work as they should. Please don’t think that we aren’t trying. We are. Try not to get angry, annoyed or frustrated when we’re unable to do something or when we’re acting weird.
2. Give us room to talk about what we’re experiencing - even if it’s weird or obviously psychotic to you
What we believe and experience due to our schizophrenia is real to us, and while you definitely shouldn’t agree that it’s real, a compassionate “that sounds so scary, I’m sorry you’re experiencing this!” is much nicer to hear than invalidating dismissals of our experiences. Let us vent. Let us express what we’re going through. You don’t have to argue that it isn’t actually true cause you can’t argue with psychosis. What we need most of the time is just a safe outlet for our experiences and a little compassion.
3. Offer help with practical stuff if you can
Schizophrenia often impairs our ability to function, so offer help with practical stuff sometimes if you’re able. We aren’t lazy, we’re sick, and it means the world to us if you help us with some of the stuff that we’re likely failing to do ourselves. You don’t necessarily have to spring clean our apartment - you going to the grocery store for some food or other necessities, preparing some food, doing a load of laundry, taking the trash out, doing the dishes or vacuuming, anything, even things that are very small and easy things for you, are likely a big challenge for us and it’s more than okay to offer your help if you notice we’re struggling.
4. Offer distractions
You likely can’t convince us that our psychosis isn’t real, but you can often distract us and bring our attention towards something else. We’ll likely pay less attention to psychotic symptoms if we’re going for a run with you, playing a video game, watching a movie or are engaged in a conversation. It won’t make it go away, but it’ll be easier to deal with if it isn’t at the center of our attention
5. Be careful not to trigger or worsen our psychosis
Do not play along with, try to influence, reinforce or support our delusions or hallucinations. Don’t use our lack of connection to reality against us, ever, neither as a joke, because you want to validate us, because of your spiritual beliefs, because you’re mad at us or as an experiment or anything. Don’t. Ever. I know that the line between listening compassionately and reinforcing our delusions can be hard to walk but we need you to try.
6. Reach out if we’re isolating ourselves
Struggle with socializing and social isolation is common in schizophrenic people. Do what you can to show us that you want to spend time with us and that you care about us. Send us a kind text, invite us to things even if we rarely show up and ask us if we want to hang out. Don’t let us doubt that you want to be a part of our lives cause we likely will if left to our own devices.
7. Don’t blame us for struggling or not doing as well as we usually do
Schizophrenia isn’t just psychosis, it also negatively affect our brains cognitive functions (memory, concentration, executive functioning, working memory, learning abilities) and it affects our energy and motivation among other things. Don’t think we aren’t doing our best just because our best isn’t what it once was or because it isn’t as good as most people’s.
8. Don’t think that we don’t care about you just because we may seem uncaring
We may seem cold and uncaring on the surface sometimes, but we still care about you. Obviously you shouldn’t let us get away with being toxic or not treating you with respect and compassion, but don’t automatically think we don’t value you if we sometimes seem cold or act weird or don’t respond to something in the appropriate and expected way. Schizophrenia makes these things harder than they are for most people.
9. Ask us what we need
Every schizophrenic person is different and general guidelines can’t do much when it comes to supporting individual people. Ask your schizophrenic loved one what they want and need from you, cause it might very well vary from what’s written here. What matters the most is that you show them that you aren’t going anywhere, that you want to support them and that you are willing to listen.