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. You could:
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 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 what to do.
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.
If someone turns 'round and says to you: '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 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.
Find out more about schizophrenia
It could help to learn about the symptoms your friend or relative might experience and the coping strategies they might find useful. Some people find it helpful to read personal stories or speak to others in the same situation (see useful contacts).
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) website has a list of useful questions for family members and carers to ask about schizophrenia.
Plan ahead for more difficult times
When someone with schizophrenia is feeling well, it can be useful to discuss how friends and family can be supportive if or when things get more difficult. (See our information on crisis plans and advance decisions.)
While having this conversation, it's important for friends and family to think about what they feel they can and can't cope with.
Lonely, confused, isolated, scared, prejudiced against… [In my experience] that's how family members feel.
Look after yourself
It can be distressing when someone you are close to experiences the symptoms of schizophrenia. It's important to invest time and energy into looking after yourself too.
See our pages on coping as a carer and improving and maintaining your wellbeing for more about looking after yourself.
This information was published in February 2017. We will revise it in 2020.