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Schizophrenia in Your Teen: Care Instructions


Schizophrenia is a disease that makes it hard to think clearly, manage emotions, and interact with other people. It can cause:

  • Delusions. These are beliefs that are not real.
  • Hallucinations. These are things that you may see or hear that are not really there.
  • Paranoia. This is the belief that others are lying, cheating, using you, or trying to harm you.

The disease may change your ability to enjoy life, express emotions, or function. You may hear voices or behave strangely. You may also keep to yourself or have trouble speaking or understanding speech.

You may need lifelong treatment with medicines and counselling. This helps keep the disease under control.

When schizophrenia is not treated, the risks are higher for suicide, a hospital stay, and other problems. Early treatment called coordinated specialty care (CSC) may help a person who is having their first episode of psychotic thoughts. Ask your doctor about CSC.

Follow-up care is a key part of your teen's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your teen is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your teen's test results and keep a list of the medicines your teen takes.

How can you care for your teen at home?

  • Show your love. Understand that the behaviour you may see is part of the illness, not the person you love.
  • Understand that symptoms that make no sense to you are real to your teen. Don't argue with, give up on, or make fun of your teen. Help your teen feel safe and in control.
  • Learn about schizophrenia. Understand what happens in schizophrenia and how you and your teen can cope with it. This may make it easier for you and your teen to work together on treatment.
  • Work together as a family. Get family therapy. Know what may or may not be helpful, and don't ask your teen to make changes too quickly. You and your family may benefit from therapy even if your teen does not want to participate.
  • Help during hallucinations and paranoia. Call your teen quietly by name, or ask your teen to tell you what they are going through. Be calm and soothing. Don't argue or tell your teen that the voices are not real. Call for help if you think the situation could become dangerous.
  • Be sure that your teen takes their medicines. Talk about how the medicines help symptoms. You also can help by watching for side effects.
  • Be aware of your own and other people's negative attitudes (stigma) toward the illness and your teen. Do what you can to fight stigma and teach people about schizophrenia.
  • If your teen talks about suicide, self-harm, or feeling hopeless, get help right away. Call your provincial suicide hotline or Crisis Services Canada: 1-833-456-4566, or go to for more information.

Encourage good health habits

  • See that your teen doesn't drink alcohol or use drugs. This makes treating schizophrenia harder. If your teen has a problem with drugs or alcohol, get help.
  • Encourage your teen to be active. Exercise and activity can help your teen stay fit.
  • See that your teen gets enough sleep. Sleep can help mood and stress levels.
  • See that your teen eats healthy foods. This helps the body deal with tension and stress. Whole grains, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and protein are part of a balanced diet.

Help Yourself

  • Find your own support. Finding your own support can help you deal with the illness and the sense of loss you may feel. Caring for someone who has schizophrenia is not easy.
  • Take care of yourself. Do things you enjoy, such as seeing family or going to movies.
  • Don't feel you need to do everything possible to help your teen.
  • Don't do it alone. Ask others to help you. The more support you have, the more help you can give. Get help from a local organization. Your city or province may have programs to help you. Ask at your local health unit. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) provides contact information for support organizations nationwide. Go to for more information.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your teen may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your teen is thinking about suicide or is threatening suicide.
  • Your teen is hearing voices that tell your teen to hurt themself, hurt others, or do something illegal.
  • You think your teen feels like hurting themself or others.

If your teen talks about suicide, self-harm, or feeling hopeless, get help right away. Call your provincial suicide hotline or Crisis Services Canada: 1-833-456-4566, or go to for more information.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your teen shows warning signs of suicide, such as talking about death or spending long periods of time alone.
  • Your teen is hearing voices.
  • Your teen thinks someone is trying to harm them.
  • Your teen cannot concentrate or is easily confused.
  • Your teen is drinking a lot of alcohol or using drugs.
  • Your teen has a hard time taking care of basic needs, such as grooming.

Watch closely for changes in your teen's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your teen's symptoms come back or are getting worse after your teen has been getting better.
  • Your teen does not want to go to counselling sessions.
  • Your teen is not taking their medicines or is talking about not taking them.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter C779 in the search box to learn more about "Schizophrenia in Your Teen: Care Instructions".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.