This can be difficult. Nobody gets it right all the time, but try to relate as respectfully as you can.

1. If they are having difficulty concentrating:
  • Keep your statements short
  • Give one message at a time
  • Don’t give too many choices at once
  • Let them know clearly and slowly what you reasonably can and can’t do
2. If they are expressing delusions and are 100% convinced:
  • Don’t argue, don’t say, “it’s rubbish,” or “you’re stupid,” or “ no they aren’t.”
  • Accept this is their reality. Be true to yourself. You might say, “ I can’t see them but I know you can.”
  • Recognise that their emotions are genuinely experienced
  • Acknowledge the person e.g. “I can see that you get angry when you feel like people are laughing at you.”
3. If they are expressing delusions AND have previously been open to discussing them:
  • You might gently remind them, “these thoughts come up sometimes” or “ you’ve learnt not to give those thoughts too much attention.”
  • They might check out their interpretation with someone they trust.
  • You can ask respectfully “How might that be/happen?”
4. If the person’s behaviour is annoying you or irritating you:
  • Understand that this is an environment of distress for you both
  • Let it go if you can
  • Be honest about how you are affected when the time seems appropriate,
  • Say how you feel without attacking. Use ‘I’ messages e.g. “ I feel disturbed by…”
5. If the person’s behaviour is frightening you:
  • Give the person space. Move gently to a quieter, more open surroundings. Don’t crowd or rush the person.
  • Try to speak and act calmly. Ask what might help.
  • Try to stay calm and communicate simply and clearly.
  • Give the person space.
  • If there are warning signs of a relapse, reassure them that you are seeking help. Follow the relapse plan you have previously discussed.

Taking care of yourself

It is highly distressing when someone in the family experiences psychosis. It is natural that you’ll be distressed and it is important to look after yourself.

Where possible, continue with your own life. Allow yourself time out then you will be energised to provide positive support when required. Identify your stressors and brainstorm reducing them. This is good role modelling for all around you. Keep a positive outlook. People do recover in their own time, in their own way. Re-establish friend networks and family relationships by continuing healthy activities that were done prior to the episode of psychosis.

Taking care of yourself involves:
  • Keeping an eye on your physical health
  • Keeping in touch with friends
  • Replenishing yourself emotionally
  • Moving your body
  • Finding ways to relax
  • Talking to others who can give you support, practical ideas and a sense of hope

How is everyone in your family?

Each person in the family (including you) has probably had strong feelings about what has happened. They may feel scared, angry, resentful, down, sad, frustrated, or all of these things and more! These feelings are an inevitable part of caring about the person, and of worrying that your hopes for the future may be interrupted or even lost. Believe that everyone can recover.

Many people try to deal with their feelings by shutting down, denying there is a problem, throwing themselves into other activities, or finding someone to blame. All these reactions are common. People express their feelings in different ways. Often family members feel hurt and alone if they don’t feel attended to and supported during such difficult times. Yet the other family members may not know what is going on for that person. This can lead to conflict in the family. It’s important for families to discuss their feelings, and to try to understand and accept what is happening. It is important to recognise when family members need to seek help for themselves.

  • Try to listen to other family members’ feelings
  • Be clear that it is the illness that is the main problem, not the person
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help for yourself or another family member
  • Create a recovery environment