Many people feel at a loss when a loved one is diagnosed with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. Should my loved one take antipsychotic medications when they’ve got so many potential side effects? Can therapy help treat a schizophrenia disorder? Are community and job support services worth it? The answer is yes. Research has been pointing towards the effectiveness of early treatment for those with a schizophrenia disorder. NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), a nation-wide nonprofit which advocates for effective treatment and education of people with mental illnesses and their families, recently linked an article summarizing these findings.
Getting Early Treatment
Getting a person early treatment can be challenging, the health system is huge and confusing, and each different state has different laws and resources available for people needing help. I strongly urge you to find a good psychiatrist first, as people with schizophrenia disorders tend to do much better when on antipsychotic medications (and many primary care doctors don’t feel comfortable prescribing those meds). This can be difficult in and of itself, as there aren’t enough psychiatrists in many areas. You many have to wait before you can get an appointment, but this is better than not seeing one at all. Also, ask if there is a waiting list or cancellation list, sometimes you can get in sooner that way.
Finding a good therapist is also important, not only for helping your loved one deal with their schizophrenia symptoms, but also for working through the life changes, losses, and depression that often accompany the disorder. Look for a good fit between your loved one and the therapist, a trusting therapy relationship can be extremely beneficial over time.
Finally, look into the support services for you and your loved one in your area. This can include social workers, financial workers, guardians, representative payees, home health nurses, vocational trainers, and others. They can help you navigate the system and get your loved one the supports to assist them improve their symptoms and their quality of life. Contact your local NAMI chapter for help on locating these resources as they vary from state-to-state.
Finally, getting treatment for your loved one can be especially challenging if your loved one’s have caused them not to think anything is wrong. Sometimes focusing on their goals and how they can achieve them more easily with treatment is helpful. An excellent book about working with people who don’t believe anything is wrong (when others all agree they have a schizophrenia disorder) is I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help! By Xavier Amador. Other strategies include having them see a therapist only briefly every few weeks to check in, letting them have some control over their life and treatment choices, and giving them time to adjust. If you’re unsure how to proceed with this, talk to your local NAMI chapter, there are education and support groups for relatives of people with mental illness, they can likely give you some tips on how to best manage the situation.