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How to Help a Parent with Schizophrenia

Learn how to help a parent with schizophrenia from psychiatrist Jeanie Tse in this Howcast video.


Many people grow up with a parent who is schizophrenic or meet their parent later on after reunifying with them because they weren't able to care for them because of their schizophrenia. As an adult, trying to support your parent with schizophrenia, it can sometimes be not an easy task. We have a lot of expectations of what a parent is. When you parent is the person who's ill and needs help, there's a lot of emotional process that you need to go through to negotiate that.

On the plane, they tell you, put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else. This is the same here. You want to make sure that you have support and you are addressing your own issues and stress before trying to help your parent.

I have four Ls that I tell people about. They are: Learn, Listen, Link up, and Love. Learn about the disorder. Find out about how it's a brain development disorder, that it's nobody's fault. What are the symptoms? What are the triggers? What does a relapse look like, so we can nip it in the bud? How can I help my mother or father to self-manage this disorder. Those are things that are important to learn.

Listening. Sometimes people with schizophrenia feel very alone, especially when they're paranoid and feel like people are against them. Being there and just listening to your parent can sometimes be helpful. Again, if it's very stressful for you, make sure you take care of that stress and set your limits as well.

Link up is the third one. There are many other people out there with parents who have schizophreniaor family members with schizophrenia. Link up with them. One great resource is the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, that's, if you want to look that up online. They have lots of groups for people to share with others who have this experience.

Then, love. Your parent, at the end of the day, benefits from your unconditional love for them. Through thick and thin, if you can be there, I think that's very valuable to them. Sometimes, you will be called on to deal with concrete needs.

Thinking about housing for your parent who is either sick or getting older is something that many children deal with, but needs to be negotiated. Also thinking about safety. When you have a family member who has schizophrenia, if they have any aggressive behaviors at all, just thinking about who to call, how to address the situation if something occurs, is really important as well.

In short, I think while it is a challenge, certainly, to have a parent with schizophrenia, it's something that you, really, by first taking care of yourself, can help with.

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