Treatment - Family Support

Family Support

Family members can play an important role in helping to keep their schizophrenic relatives supported and oriented. Before they can be properly supportive, however, they must first understand and accept that schizophrenia is a disorder of the brain just like diabetes is a disorder of the body; not anyone's fault; and not an indication of moral or spiritual failure. Family members need to know this so that they do not blame their schizophrenic relatives for being schizophrenic, or think of them as willfully lazy. Patients are often incapacitated, and a drain on family energy and resources, but this is not intentional on the part of patients, who are in many ways victims more than anything else.

The single most important thing family members can do to support their ill relatives is to help them remain oriented and on task with their therapeutic routines; helping them stay on medications, and attend scheduled psychotherapy sessions and doctor visits, for instance. Family members can also benefit their ill relatives by helping them with with personal care, eating a well-balanced diet, and getting regular exercise (even if it's just a walk).

Therapy is work for schizophrenic patients, who already suffer from a condition that robs them of their better judgment. When left to their own devices, many schizophrenic patients are prone to avoid therapy or to attend it only intermittently. Either of these outcomes add up to trouble. Family members can thus help their schizophrenic relatives by continually encouraging them to keep their therapy appointments, and doing things to make it more likely that treatment is maintained.

Caring for sick relatives is frequently painful and heartbreaking. Family members may benefit from seeking out therapy for themselves as well as for their ill relatives. Participating in a self-help group for families of psychiatric patients is known to reduce family member's sense of burden, aloneness and stress.

  • Raquel Aguilar

    Thanks, for explaining so good about Schizophrenia disease, I found out a lot of information that I really needed to know in order to help my sister. Thanks,

  • Sonia Navarrete

    I would like to know how can I help my son, who suffers from this illness to refrain from alcohol since he takes medication. I found your article very helpful and comforting.

  • V. Bravo

    My son was diagnosed with Schizophrenia when he was seventeen, he is now forty years old. My biggest concern for him is keeping him on his medication. My son has been off medication for about a year now and he refuses to go for his Doctors appointments, so no medication. When he has taken his med's in the past he dose do very well. I understand that he has his rights under the law but it sure makes it hard to see him suffer. Do you have any ideas? He is very smart when it comes to his rights, so even if I can get him in the hospital he still refuses medical care. He is also homeless now, no matter how much I try to get him off the streets, he refuses. Thank you for your articles they were very helpful.

  • Distraught Niece

    In the last two years, my paternal aunt, a resident of the UK, has exhibited significant delusional thoughts. She is convinced that there is an international spy agency plotting against her. She visits us once a year in Los Angeles and her ideation becomes more elaborate. At first, the spy agency was limited to Rome where she spent several months, then the spy network followed her to London. The progression has escalated because she now believes that My aunt is a highly accomplished woman in her late 60s with a very successful career tract in finance. She is highly educated and artistic. Besides these delusions, she is normal in every sense of the word, except that she has socially isolated herself as of late. She is able to continue caring for herself and manageher finances. However, the delusions are becomeing more persistent. She has started accusing members of our immediate family of being influenced or infiltrated by the spy network. Can someone devolop schizphrenia so late? What is the best approach to having her seek treatment voluntarily? Whenever other family members or friends have suggested physician treatment, she believes that the spy network has "gotten to them." Any comments greatly appreciated.

  • Evelyn Burch

    For years my brother has been trying to convince his now 30 y/o son to take his meds regularly because when he is not, he has episodes where he becomes dangerous to those around him. His siblings & their children have put a stop to being around him, and his recently wedded father, who has been his primary support for the past 10 yrs. is frustrated with him. He contacted me (I live overseas), it appears from his email, the voices are becoming stronger & giving him conflicted messages. I want to help but saying what everyone else has said for the past few years, "take your meds" will not suffice. How can I provide his wonderful young man (whose wife divorced him & took their kids b/c of the danger he presented), that he can manage if he only accepts his illness and take his med?

  • Lisa


    I have a brother who suffers from the disorder. I think it is important not to use the word schizophrenia because it has such negative connotations in our society and is affiliated with violent behavior when many who have the disorder are not violent, particularly when they take their medication. It should be called something else. __________ Disorder. I never tell my brother he has schizophrenia. I tell him he has a disorder that affects his way of thinking atimes and when suffering from an episode he can suffer from delusions. My brother has isolated himself for over 10 years and it is extremely heartbreaking. I can not tell you how much it hurts me. I have a very hard time enjoying my own relationships because I feel such a deep sense of guilt and wish he could enjoy the smallest things I enjoy.

    To top it off my mother who has two personality disorders is the one caring for him. I feel he goes through more unnecessary pain because of this. I have asked for him to be put into assisted living this way he can develop a personal support system and his siblings can have a relationship with him (which does not exist at the moment due to my mother's controlling nature).

    She can be verbally abusive and sometimes thinks things are happening that are not happening. This does not help him. I wish I knew of resources to be able to help him stabilize and assist me in being a more supportive sister.

    Everyone should have the basic delights of life and no one should be robbed of it.

    Thank you.

  • Anonymous-1

    I found this website while looking for some support for my brother who has schizophrenia.

    My brother has just moved into his own apartment that my sister and I helped set him up. He is 50 yrs old and has lived with my mother until she died this past Spring. I was never able to get my mother to help him get his own place and whatever support he needed to have the best life possible. So, after 25 yrs of living with my mother, he is on his own. He lives in another State where my mother lived, and does not want to live near me or my sister. I am anxious over how things are going to go and have worried for years about what would happen to him after my mother died. He takes his medication and goes to a social worker once a week, but his life is getting narrower and narrower. I think that the less interaction that he has with people the more he turns into himself. He sits around alot of the day, lost in thought. He doesn't make friends, quit his job right before my mother died and is supposed to be looking for another one (?) now. He says that he will always take his medication after having had a few episodes that hospitalized him years ago. But, there are times when he forgets and rushes off to the pharmacy to get refills when he has run out.

    My mother, too, was not very stable and I wonder if she didn't have some mild form of the disease. She wasn't mean to my brother. The two of them spent alot of time just sitting around worrying about things...

    I feel quilty that I can't fix things for my brother. And the pain I feel is never-ending.


  • Anonymous-2

    I am 27 years old and was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 15. For many years i was fine without medication or treament but in the last few years my schizphrenia has become increasingly worse. I often sit alone for days in the same room because i am afraid to do anything else. Such irrational behavior but i dont know what else to do or how to find the help i need.

  • sarah smith

    my brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia 9 years ago . .it has been a tough journey for all our family--there are 3 brothers ,me and my sister.he was 23 when diagnosed, we knew very little about the illness and had to educate ourselves quickly.My brother was in and out of hospitals several times and it was heartbreaking!

    He was in hospital on xmas day once, he is a talented musician and my parents bought him a mini amplifier to use with his guitar along with headphones into the hospital . .he played fantastically and from his heart.He doesnt play much these days as hes on heavy medication but at least hes taking it.I find it hard to deal with the illness and would do anything for my brother as its a cruel illness.

  • Caroline

    My brother has had the desease for a few years now (he's 24). He used to stay in his room almost 24hours a day, five days a week. On Friday and Saturday he went out with his friends drinking beer and such. My father tried to tell him he needed to go for a walk evereyday, even if it was just around the block. My brother said he would faint if he walked for more than 10minutes. He got faired from his job because he was never on time. His male boss cried when he left. He knew something was wrong. When he was diagnosed my brother's doctor told him he could drink alcohol, but only a couple of beer when he was out with his friends. This is what my brother did/thought: I can drink, my doctor said it was OK. Whenever he was out with his friends he drank about 24beers and other kinds of alcohol (not good when you combine that with medicine). His mindset was off. Now he only drink light beer, and only two twice a week. It keeps him from responsing to the voices he's hearing as much, but sadly I can't tell a lot of difference. At least he's not turning into an alcoholic as well.

    I am thankful for the medication because it reduces the "weird" laughter, paranoia and voices in his head. However, his heavy medication makes him tired, distent and the word zombie comes to my head. Still I see betterment, and I hope for recovery. I used to think he one day would kill my family, but I ralize that if a person wasn't violent before the desease, then they will not likely become it. He is still a good person.

  • Judith

    I have read and could write all of your stories. My son was diagnosed 16 years ago. I've won some of the battles but have lost the war with him. I have been dragging along after him while he has gone through being homeless, broke, physically ill, being in jail, caught in Hurricane Katrina. Not to mention the abuse and guilt that I have suffered at both his and my own hands. I brought him to Tennessee approximately 18 months ago. The mental health system is better here than in LA. But he has very little chance of recovery even with meds because he is so damaged. He's a college grad who had a bright future before the first episode. I am finding that my own psyche is getting thinner and thinner. I can no longer jump in the car at midnight to pick him up or cross town to buy groceries or wade through the mountains of red tape and the beaurocracatic inconsistencies. I have lived all this time in dread of getting "the phone call." I finally broke off all relations with him this week when he tried to have me arrested for grand theft because I would not give him money from his social security check to buy a 17-year-old car with 214K miles. Not to mention that he does not have a driver's license, can't afford insurance and has not driven in about 7 years. This was the final straw. I can't do it anymore. I am not angry--I'm just old and tired now.

    Thanks for letting me vent.

  • j smith

    How can I get help with my son. He has been in Hospital for Three year's. He also has Dyslexia. We are looking for a Home for him I can not look after him.

  • Anonymous-3

    I am 36 years old and just recently admitted to myself that my mother has schizophrenia . I never told any of my friends or could ever have anyone come to my house . My dad stayed away because he couldn't handle being around her . My brother has major issues . People have always looked at my family and said how well i turned out , but I battle daily with my reality and all the lies I've told all my life to cover up my secret about my mother . I just wanted so badly to have a normal family . Is there a support group for people in my situation ?

  • Anonymous-4

    Lifelong observations in the private and public sectors prompt some of these questions:

    What is the relationship of high intelligence to schizophrenia?

    Recent news report dental health/condition has high correlation, true?

    Finding funding for "talk" part of treatment - where to start when person is unemployable at present?

    Historical labeling, wonder if post-traumatic-stress would now be used instead of paranoid schizophrenia?

    How to find local support networks for care-givers?

  • sarah

    Hi everyone. My brother is in his early 30's, was in the war in iraq for a year and a half. He has been home now for almost two years and has been changing very much for the worse. He has become VERY paranoid and believes people are out to get him, especially the goverment. He has lost trust in his friends and some of his family members. He has told me about many different stories/stuff that seems "far fetched" and its getting worse. He was seeing a doctor for post traumatic stress disorder and put on effexor only. He suddenly stopped it on his own decision, without a doctors care. He has stopped seeing a doctor about his problems. He moved away from our hometown, family, his friends, and has not come home for visits. He really seems to confide in me and always trusted me. How can I tell him that he has a much greater "problem" than just mild depression/anxiety, and get him the immediate help that I feel he need asap?? Please help with your advice, or personal experiences, It's appreciated!

  • The invisible daughter.

    My older sibling has schizophrenia. He threatened to kill my parents, held them hostage, made me run out of the house to call for help and it took hours before SWAT team could pull the dog out of the house alive before he did something stupid and hurt my parents. I was never thanked for risking my life to save theirs. I was belittled, humiliated and reprihanded for calling the police for help. What else was a young teen girl to do when she saw that her brother hadn't eaten for days. What else was she to do when she saw that he had sat in the den for over 24 hours without speaking, only crying and mumbling every now and then. What was I to do when he threatened suicide, and then threw my mother on the floor and tried hurtring her? I ran out, called 911, and the authorities promised me that they would pull me out of this situation but they never did. The Sgt with the New Mexico Police dpt, at the Dona Ana county promised me he would help, and after all these years, he hasn't even called to see if Im ok. I don't pitty schizophrenics. NOT AT ALL. They are manipulative intelligent beings who know how to get what they want, at all costs. I am sick of it, and I want out. I am in college, moving on with my life one day at a time. But wheter or not I will ever be able to recover from that blow is a mystery. Yeah, my schizophrenic brother didn't physically kill my parents that day, but he murdered them in so many other ways I don't even know which is worse anymore. Im sick of the drama, the lack of justice, and I really want to get out and never see these people again ever. I feel anger mixed with sadness. But NEVER pitty. I could think of very degrading names to attach to this so called disorder, but come to think of it, there is no better name that would suffice the title....schizophrenia.

  • patricia

    I have a daughter and a son both diagnosed when they turned 19 years old, my son is compliant with his medication, however my daughetr refuses to accept she has this devastating illness,

    she has been hospitalized numerous times, she is enrolled in PACT program, this is a wonderful program that provides outpatient counseling, psychiatrist comed to their homes, and they have a casemanager to help them with housing and other needs.

    find your local PACT program and get help for your relatives.

  • Nemo Nemo

    my husband was diagnosed as schysophrenic 4 months ago. he is 28 years old and he used to see hallusinations and once he tried to commit sucicide. now he is taking medication. he is much better now but he's gained weight>> I need to know how to support him

  • Anonymous-5

    I was hoping someone might be able to recommend some books for family members of a person with schizo-affective disorder. We would like to know what we can and can't do and should and shouldn't do to help.

    Editor's Note: You may find this article to be helpful.

  • Marina

    For 15 years, I was married to Brad. soon after ou marriage he started acting weird, jealous, and started acting like there were a number of grand conspiracies conspiring around him. We moved eight times in those 15 years. although, he was working when I met him and until we were married. After our daugther was born everything changed...

    He was abusive, he choked me kicked me spit at me. H told me I was stupid, anda drain on society. I am a professional and work for the government, so - in his mind- what I did was useless. And yet I worked. He didn't or if he did, it was very sporadically. and yet, in his words, he was the star of any worksite he was on, and all the others were jealous of his skills... For this reason he would quit.

    When I told him he had to get help he would. He saw a psychiatrist until he was told things he didn't want to hear. We went to a marriage counsellor, he quickly changed his behaviour. But it came back. He was then diagnosed as depressed with high anxiety... The pills stopped working after a couple years.

    Eventually he stopped trying. He refused to get help. He had a built in excuse for failure - me. I was his scapegoat, I was the cause of all the world's injustices. Yet I continued to try. I supported his ventures. I re mortgaged the house and bought him ten acres because he wanted a retreat where he could feel safe...

    The last straw was when he held our daughter and me at knife point. He attacked both of us, punching kicking, etc. She went next door and called the police. They took him away. He was held for over two months. Before he was released, I got a call from his case worker asking if he would be welcomed back home, I said no.

    Later, I was told by his mother he was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. He told her he doesn't know why we called the police and he blames me for the fact that his daughter doesn't want to see him...

    I never want to see hm again. I do not feel safe around him. And to top it all off, I will likely lose half of all that I worked for in a divorce settlement. He will never support his daughter (not that he ever has), and i'll end up supporting this violent abusive man into his old age (he'll get half of my pension as well as all the retirement savings being in his name)...

    I have been manipulated, and assaulted. To me it appears that he has profitted from his crimes. He knew he was unwell and did nothing but make our lives hell. Our daughter said that we should have kicked him out years ago. We have an order that he cannot come near us for another year. And we relish this time. We finally feel safe.

    I read on line that in paranoid schizophrenics, violence is usually aimed at family member, and I can attest to that...

  • A Lewis

    He has been violent a bit and on friday stabed me in the back with our three kids in the home. How do I deal with this? I still love him with all I have.

  • Anonymous-6

    What a horribly ugly disorder. No cure. Only subsiding symptoms with psychotherapy and medication which it is up to a person with a mental health disorder to stay on top of. This disease is such a huge, debilitating, taxing disease on my whole family. We are out of resources and the saddest thing one wants to be around her. Everyone wants to "help," but no one really wants to take her in or really get down and dirty with her disease....myself included. What a tremendous sense of guilt. There are definately signs of illness, but for the most part, the difficult behaviors seem as though she is just being manipulative and selfish. I'm so lost. I don't know where to draw the line between sickness and manipulation. I hate this. I hate this. I hate this. It is constantly on my mind, and never at the forefront of hers. She makes those around her so miserable with guilt and worry, yet she strolls along eating up all of the mental and financial resources without even a second thought. This is aweful. Aweful, aweful, aweful.

  • Anonymous-7

    You don't mention how you are related to the ill person. In my case, it is my son. I suppose that makes it easier because as a mother I know I am the one supposed to care for him. I agree with you though that the seemingly selfishness gets old. It's always me, me, me. And when there is housework to be done it's always not me, not me. He is always bored and yet will not do anything. I am hopeful that when he gets disability payments and has money, he may not be so bored. But then he may want a car and I do not think he has the concentration or cognitive skills required to drive. Or he may get back into drugs.

    He was an extremely intelligent child. He taught himself to read at age 3. He skipped 3rd grade and was honor roll. He was amazing on the guitar. Where did that son go? He is in no way the son I now have. He left at age 16.

    After ten years he now will take his meds without a fight. That is an accomplishment.

    My husband has hepatitis C in final stages. But my son's lack of empathy makes it worse because he does not care. My son does not understand why my husband spends so much money on vitamins, supplements and organic food. It seems "unfair" to him. In fact, he would really like to be in charge of our finances himself.

    Enough for now, I am getting depressed

  • Frustrated Wife

    Can any wife out there married 2 a paranoid schizophrenic tell me how the hell they cope when the husband is sexually rampant & when confronted just lies n lies n lies. Has no explanation for why he does it, says sorry n then goes out & does it over n over again. This illness is truly destructive 2 a family. I am only just learning about this illness now as I have previously been in denial that he is a paranoid schizophrenic. My God, after nearly 5yrs coping on my own with 3 daughters living with us, I am so stressed. I have just started educating myself about this illness & asking questions to psychologists.

  • penny

    I have been married to a schizophrenic for almost 32 yrs. Sometimes I feel so frustrated and alone. He can talk to anyone but me. When our daughter visits, he talks up a storm with her,after she leaves he does an about face. I feel dehumanized and defeminized.I have had to carry the load.No one knows what its like til you marry one. I see him as apathetic,cold,at times rude and lazy.Extremely self-centered. Then there are times he can be normal. The problem is adjusting to the back and forth moods.There are days when I get the cold shoulder.You feel like your dying inside.No affection. It is a horrible disease, but let's not forget the toll it takes on spouses,family and friends.

  • edward

    you people who do nothing but criticize the schizophrenic individuals should be ashamed of yourselves. they are desperately ill men and women. instead of b**ching and feeling sorry for yourselves get off your dead a*ses and do something. put them in a home, become legal power of attorney and make their decisions. if you are feeling sorry for YOURSELVES stop it. feel sorry for them ok.they are very very ill. My family is so supportive of me . I am schizoaffective. I have breaks with reality. I hate taking medication because i do not always feel like i am sick. I am not inherently manipulative or apathetic. the disease is a total mindfuck. if you feel "dehumanized" or God forbid "defeminized" then for f**k sake get a divorce.

  • Ionut

    Thanks for informations and description.

  • Anonymous-8

    This is absolutely wonderful. I have searched the internet over and over looking for any information on family support groups for people who are taking care or living with an affected person, and have found little if nothing. All the info there is, is how to help that aflicted family member.

    Here's an observation People with Schizophrenia don't believe that they have schizophrenia. So there for, they refuse to visit the doctor or seek any help related to thier issues because they don't believe there is an issue. They blame every one else for the calamities and apparent dangers of their dillusions, and label them as the "enemy". So, it's absolutely useless to offer any support to a family member or friend dealing with this...

    I have been living with my mother wh is 57 for 5 months and she has been believing that people are threatening to murder and rape her telepathicaly since 2012. I can't convince her that these are dillusions because she thinks that I am doing these things to her. She was a kindergarten teacher who worked profesionaly for years and has a masters degree in education. She was fired from her job because she wouldn't accept help and kept accusing her co-workers, students and principal of atrocious things.

    Now she lives in my state and the establshment here is more willing to ignore the problem and wait untill she commits a crime so they can arrest her(yes, I live in the south if any of you are guessing.) instead of placing her in the hospital to try and medicate her to a state where she can gain some coherance and realize the gravity of her dillusions.

    I live in fear every day of her convincing some low life that I'm trying to murder or rape her. I'm also canstantly dealing with the anxiety of worry over her doing soemthing stupid due to this dissorder. Now she's concidering leaving the country to teach English in east asia. What if she gets arrested over there?

    The system in this country (among so many other things) has apsolutley failed people with mental health issues. They would rather wait untill they can criminaly prosecute them, than require them to get the help they need in order to protect themselves and their society.

    What's worse is I can't even find a support group for familly members who are dealing with people with schizophrenia. It's just the subject of jokes and taboo. I'm so so close to giving up on her and letting her become societies problem.