for better mental health

Schizophrenia

Explains schizophrenia, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.

This information is for the friends and family of someone who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

If someone close to you has schizophrenia, it can be hard to know how to help, but there are lots of things you can try.

This page offers some suggestions on how you can:

Ask how you and others can help

Ask what help they would find useful. This might include helping with everyday things like shopping or housework, taking them to appointments or reminding them to take their medication if they struggle to remember on their own.

See our page on how to help someone with schizoaffective disorder, which is similar to schizophrenia, for more practical tips.

If someone doesn't want help

People who experience schizophrenia may not realise they are unwell until they get treatment. It can be hard to persuade someone to see a doctor if they don't want to, or if they don't think anything is wrong.

Our information on supporting someone else to seek help for a mental health problem has some suggestions on things you could try.

Focus on feelings, not experiences

You might feel unsure what to say or do when someone sees or believes something you don't – but it's important to remember that their experiences feel real to them.

It can help if you focus on how they are feeling, rather than talking about what is real or true. Instead of denying their experience it can help to say something like "That sounds really frightening, is there somebody you could talk to about it?".

"If someone turns round and says it's not real, it just makes you feel more alone than ever."

Notice what's going well

It can be hard seeing someone close to you experience schizophrenia. They might find it hard to think clearly, have problems understanding what is real, stop taking care of themselves or avoid seeing people.

Try to notice positive things too. It can help to set small, realistic goals to aim for rather than focusing on what they can't do. It's also important to remember that losing interest and motivation are part of having schizophrenia and not something the person is choosing to do.

Find out more about schizophrenia

It could help to learn about the symptoms they might experience and the coping strategies they could find useful. You may find it helpful to read personal stories or speak to others in the same situation. See our useful contacts page for organisations that can help with this.

Getting advice from professionals

If you are caring for someone with schizophrenia, you should be able to talk to their doctor, care team or other professionals involved in their care.

Even if someone doesn't want medical details to be shared with you, it should still be possible for you to ask for advice and information. They should also talk to you about your needs as a carer.

You might find it helpful to think about what questions you particularly want to ask. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has a list for family members and carers of useful questions to ask doctors about schizophrenia.

Plan ahead for difficult times

When your friend or relative is feeling well, it can be helpful to discuss with them how you can help if a crisis happens, or if they are at the start of another episode. You could:

  • encourage them to write a crisis plan
  • discuss which symptoms you can look out for
  • get to know their triggers and plan how to cope with them.

This can help them to avoid crises or manage them differently in future where possible. When having these conversations, make sure you also think about how much you can cope with and try to only offer support that you feel able to give. It is important to look after yourself too.

For more information see our pages on planning for a crisis, helping someone else seek help, advocacy and advance decisions.

"Lonely, confused, isolated, scared, prejudiced against. That's how family members feel."

Look after yourself

It can be distressing when someone you are close to experiences schizophrenia symptoms. It's important to invest energy into looking after yourself too.

You may find it helpful to get support coping with your feelings, either through peer support, where you can talk to other people with similar experiences, or talking therapy and counselling. This support may be available at a local Mind or other carers’ groups, such as Carers UK.

See our pages on coping when supporting someone else and looking after your wellbeing for more about taking care of yourself.

This information was published in November 2020. We will revise it in 2023.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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