Schizophrenia in Your Teen: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Schizophrenia is an illness that harms how your teen's brain works and how he or she thinks. It affects each person in a different way, both on a daily basis and over a lifetime.

Schizophrenia can change your teen in many ways. It may make it harder for your teen to think clearly, manage feelings, and deal with other people.

Most people who have schizophrenia hear and sometimes see things that are not there (hallucinations), often believe some things that are not true (delusions), and may think that some people are trying to harm them (paranoia).

Schizophrenia affects everyone around the person who has the illness. It can be hard to watch your teen develop symptoms and perhaps act in very different ways.

You may feel helpless, but you play an important role in your teen's treatment.

You probably will help support or take care of your teen. You can help your teen stay in treatment, take his or her medicines, and take an active role in his or her own recovery. You also can help your teen deal with symptoms and learn skills to help him or her get along better in the community.

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 call line 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 him or her. 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 he or she is 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 his or her 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.
  • Keep the number for a suicide crisis centre on or near your phone. To find a suicide prevention crisis centre in your province, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention webpage at http://suicideprevention.ca/need-help. If you or someone you know talks about suicide or feeling hopeless, get help right away.

Encourage good health habits

  • See that your teen doesn't drink alcohol or use illegal 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. Remember that you need to respect the wishes and choices of your teen, unless those wishes and choices are dangerous. Your teen may get better faster if he or she believes that you trust him or her with decision making.
  • 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. For more information, go to www.cmha.ca.

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 himself or herself, hurt others, or do something illegal.
  • You think your teen feels like hurting himself or herself or others.

Call your doctor or nurse call 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 him or her.
  • Your teen cannot concentrate or is easily confused.
  • Your teen is drinking a lot of alcohol or using illegal 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 call line if:

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

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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