Tips on how to act around someone with schizophrenia
Hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world face a daily struggle with schizophrenia – a mental health disorder that involves a fissure between emotions and thought.
Mike has schizophrenia. Here, he shares some tips on how you can help a person with schizophrenia.
1. If you are close to the person, you should become the advocate
When you are close to someone and truly care about that person, you know them very well. You understand their behaviours and emotions — or at least have encountered them to a greater degree than an acquaintance may have.
This puts you in an ideal position to become one of their best advocates if they are dealing with a mental health disorder like schizophrenia.
So, commit to being that advocate.
Learn all you can about the nuances of schizophrenia so you can answer questions that come from your community and friends of friends. Be the person who dispels stereotypes and stands up against stigma.
2. Teach people about interacting with someone going through a schizophrenic episode
One defining behaviour of schizophrenia is to have conversations and visions about people and things that are not grounded in reality.
Now, there is a difference between feeling real emotions and feeling that something is real — when in reality, those visions or thoughts are not true. You’ll need to learn to affirm the real feelings and emotions the person is feeling — because those are real — while not giving in to feeding the fantastical visions the person may be experiencing.
Instead of playing along, tell the person you don’t see the same things. Try to redirect the person and encourage him or her. Find points of common ground that the both of you can agree on and feel good about.
3. Set goals
For anyone who is going to be a supportive friend of someone with schizophrenia, you’ll need to learn to be encouraging and effective in the area of goal setting. This is something that the entire community can benefit from — and this is especially helpful for people with mental health disorders because it instills a sense of empowerment.
Teach your community how to set simple, manageable goals and then use those small goals to build into larger ones.
Encourage friends with schizophrenia in their journey toward meeting those goals — so they feel supported and affirmed — and avoid criticism.
4. Keep a diary
If you are going to be very involved in the day-to-day lives of friends with schizophrenia, then keep a diary of the behaviours, thoughts, conversations, and medications of your friends.
Think of it as a daily diary that helps you understand the person better.
At first, their behaviours and what they articulate may seem a little curious. Remember that people who are in a schizophrenic episode believe they hear voices and see things that are not part of reality. The more you interact with the person and track their behaviours, the better you’ll be able to respond to them and direct them in conversation.
This helps you better understand the mental health disorder and will be an excellent record for a medical professional should an undiagnosed person decide to seek treatment.
5. Find common ground
Perhaps one of the best, most effective things you can do for your community is to show members how much common ground they have with people who have schizophrenia. This helps to break down stereotypes and promote empathy, so the group begins to care for one another and look out for each other.
One way to exercise this shared common ground is to get your schizophrenic friends and friends without serious mental health disorders talking about ordinary interests and loves — such as reading, cooking, dancing, and so on. This simple small talk then can lead to formal events — such as eating a meal together or turning on the radio and dancing together.
All it takes is one shared experience to illustrate just how alike many of us are at our core — and that this doesn’t change because one person is dealing with a mental health issue.
Many people with schizophrenia can lead happy and healthy lives with treatment and medication — and the support of a great community.
Are you ready to do your part?
The bottom line is that almost everyone has experienced some type of mental health issue in life — from something as simple as being sad to experiencing a deeper bout with depression. We all have a responsibility to break down the stigma associated with mental illness.
Keep these five easy tips in mind as you talk to people around you who do not have a healthy understanding of mental health issues.
It’s amazing what happens when a community realises people with schizophrenia are normative and wonderful people.