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Helping Your Loved One Get Schizophrenia Treatment

By Kara Mayer Robinson
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD

If your friend or relative with schizophrenia won't get treatment, there are steps you can take to help.

What to Say

First, listen to his concerns in an open-minded, supportive way. Then talk about how treatment will help.

Explain that he has an illness and it's treatable. "You'd get treatment for diabetes or hypertension, and you should get treatment for this," says Sonia Krishna, MD, of St. John's Well Child and Family Center in Los Angeles.

Focus on your concern for your loved one's safety and try to form a partnership. Don't confront delusional or inappropriate thoughts.

"Try to listen and empathize whole-heartedly with your loved one's perspectives, even when his or her beliefs seem outlandish, bizarre, distorted, or delusional," says Jason Bermak, MD, PhD, a psychiatrist in San Francisco.

If your loved one is paranoid, talk with him alone so he doesn't feel threatened by a group, says David M. Reiss, MD, a psychiatrist in San Diego.

If he's not paranoid, having a group of known and trusted friends or family members talk to him may give him a sense of agreement and concern. A group is also best if he has a tendency to "turn" on one person.

Reiss suggests following these guidelines when you and others talk to your loved one about getting treatment:

  • Don't use a threatening or confrontational tone.
  • Close and trusted family members or friends should lead the conversation.
  • Don't include people your loved one doesn't trust or feel close to, which can cause more anxiety, fear, or confusion.

Assistance From a Support Group

"Support groups for patients and families are not only helpful, they are essential," Bermak says. They can also help you get your loved one into treatment.

Try these organizations for help:

  • The National Association for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) has an information helpline (800-950-NAMI), referral service, and programs for individuals and families.
  • The Treatment Advocacy Center has information about treatment options. Or try its cell phone app, "Psychiatric Crisis Resources Kit," which has resources for emergency situations.
  • Local psychiatric hospitals, clinics, and universities run support groups and give referrals to other groups.

 

Get Help in an Emergency

In an emergency, you may need help from a professional.

First, call the police or 911. Explain the situation so they send someone trained to deal with it. "It takes the pressure off you and doesn't put you in the 'bad cop' position," Krishna says.

Some states will send a mobile crisis unit or psychiatric emergency team, often called a PET or SMART Team, to your house. The team often has a social worker or psychologist who can assess and de-escalate the situation.

If your loved one is calm and doesn't need to be hospitalized, the team will talk to him about getting treatment on his own. Or they may bring him to the hospital with the help of police.

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