First Hope for Families
Friends and family members may notice that their loved one starts to think and act differently, without knowing just what is wrong. Family members are often quite frightened or frustrated. They have seen an alarming change in their loved one’s behavior and may be unsure of what is going on. If they suspect a mental illness, they may be afraid to have their suspicions confirmed; their child or sibling may remind them of a family member with serious mental illness. They may feel ashamed or afraid that it is their fault. Some families may have religious or cultural beliefs that reject the possibility that the changes in their loved one are due to mental illness.
Often, families and friends ask how they should behave and talk to a person who is psychotic or showing early signs of a psychotic illness of ten, families and friends ask how they should behave and talk to a person who is. There are no set rules, but some general guidelines are helpful:
1. Be yourself. Understand that this is not your fault.
2. Get information to help you understand the illness that is afflicting your loved one and how it affects his behavior.
3. Try not to take it personally if your loved one says hurtful things to you when he is unwell. Minimize arguments or long discussions. Stay as positive as possible.
4. Reduce stressors. Tone down emotions. Research shows that keeping the emotional atmosphere as calm as possible can speed recovery and help prevent relapse.
5. Communicate simply and clearly.
6. Solve problems step by step.
7. Ask for help from professionals if you have questions.
8. Don’t ignore violence or risk of suicide a psychotic illness.
Do not forget the important role and needs of family members.
They may have key information about changes they have observed. They may also be quite distressed and unsure of what is happening. Remind families that the focus on their symptomatic young person can leave siblings feeling confused, ignored, scared, or angry. It is important to continue to pay attention to siblings’ emotional needs as the referral process moves forward.If the person or family is not responding adequately to your concerns or will not allow you to make a referral, you may call First Hope for support and suggestions without giving any identifying information. In any event, don’t give up your efforts to engage the young person and family because early intervention can help arrest, or at least attenuate, the course of a serious and potentially life-long disabling illness.