Support for those with mental disorders can come from families, professional
residential or day program caregivers, shelter operators, friends or roommates,
professional case managers, or others in their communities or places of worship
who are concerned about their welfare. There are many situations in which
people with schizophrenia will need help from other people.
Getting Treatment. People with schizophrenia often resist
treatment, believing that their delusions or hallucinations are real and
psychiatric help is not required. If a crisis occurs, family and friends may
need to take action to keep their loved one safe.
There is no test that can make a schizophrenia diagnosis. People with schizophrenia usually come to the attention of a mental health professional after others see them acting strangely.
Doctors make a diagnosis through interviews with the patient as well as with friends and family members.
Psychiatrists have the most experience with diagnosing schizophrenia. A psychiatrist or other licensed mental health professional should be involved in making a schizophrenia diagnosis whenever possible.
The issue of civil rights enters into any attempt to provide treatment. Laws
protecting patients from involuntary commitment have become very strict, and
trying to get help for someone who is mentally ill can be frustrating. These
laws vary from state to state, but, generally, when people are dangerous to
themselves or others because of mental illness and refuse to seek treatment,
family members or friends may have to call the police to transport them to the
hospital. In the emergency room, a mental health professional will assess the
patient and determine whether a voluntary or involuntary admission is
A person with mental illness who does not want treatment may hide strange
behavior or ideas from a professional; therefore, family members and friends
should ask to speak privately with the person conducting the patient's
examination and explain what has been happening at home. The professional will
then be able to question the patient and hear the patient's distorted thinking
for themselves. Professionals must personally witness bizarre behavior and hear
delusional thoughts before they can legally recommend commitment, and family
and friends can give them the information they need to do so.
Caregiving. Ensuring that people with schizophrenia continue to get
treatment and take their medication after they leave the hospital is also
important. If patients stop taking their medication or stop going for follow-up
appointments, their psychotic symptoms will return. If these symptoms become
severe, they may become unable to care for their own basic needs for food,
clothing, and shelter; they may neglect personal hygiene; and they may end up
on the street or in jail, where they rarely receive the kind of help they
Family and friends can also help patients set realistic goals and regain
their ability to function in the world. Each step toward these goals should be
small enough to be attainable, and the patient should pursue them in an
atmosphere of support. People with a mental illness who are pressured and
criticized usually regress and their symptoms worsen. Telling them what they
are doing right is the best way to help them move forward.
How should you respond when someone with schizophrenia makes statements that
are strange or clearly false? Because these bizarre beliefs or hallucinations
are real to the patient, it will not be useful to say they are wrong or
imaginary. Going along with the delusions will not be helpful, either. It is
best to calmly say that you see things differently than the patient does but
that you acknowledge that everyone has the right to see things in his or her
own way. Being respectful, supportive, and kind without tolerating dangerous or
inappropriate behavior is the most helpful way to approach people with this
WebMD Public Information from the U.S. National Institutes of Health