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Mental Illness Guide: Care, Support, and Education
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How is Schizophrenia Treated?

There is a lot of hope for people with schizophrenia.  Just like diabetes, schizophrenia can be managed.  Your life can get back on track.  Schizophrenia is very treatable.  Though some people recover eventually without medicine, most people get better by taking medicine. And, the medicine people take for schizophrenia is a lot better than it used to be.  Mental health workers and a supportive family can also be very helpful in getting better.

What is the best treatment?

The best treatment for schizophrenia is taking medicine, going to treatment, getting family support, decreasing stress and learning as much as you can about the illness.

1. Taking medicine

For people with schizophrenia, taking medicine will be a big part of their treatment plan.  Sometimes people will be taking more than one medicine to help unwanted side effects.

Medications help get rid of symptoms so that you feel better.  They can help to stop you from getting sick again and having to go to the hospital.

Take your medicines regularly, as prescribed.  When someone is not taking their pills like they are supposed to, they can put themselves at risk of getting sick again and going back to the hospital.

2. Identify early signs of getting sick again. Make your own early warning list.

Knowing your warning signs will help you to know that you are starting to get sick again.  If caught early enough, sometimes getting sick can be avoided.  If you would like to read more about how to identify early warning signs of getting sick again please visit How to tell if a person with schizophrenia is getting sick again.

3. Family Involvement

It is normal for your family to feel anger, confusion, guilt, shame and fear.  As normal as these feelings are, they are still painful and will grow when family members do not understand.  They may get upset because they feel no one knows what they are going through.

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill Family-to-Family Education program is a free 12-week course for family members of people with serious mental illness.  This program offers education and skills training to the family so they can better understand and help relatives with mental illness.  These classes are small.  The courses are taught by trained family members.

Family-to-Family classes are offered in hundreds of communities all around the country.  To find out more about the Family-to-Family program and classes being held near you, call 800-950-NAMI.

You can find out about self-help and support s by asking your therapist or psychiatrist.  They will know where to direct you.  Also, you can call the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill or look in the social services section of the white or yellow pages.

4. Psychoeducation

Psychoeducation means teaching people about their illness.  Learning about schizophrenia can help you and your family manage it better.  Knowing about the illness can help you and your family know when you are getting sick again. 

The family psychoeducation approach includes teaching coping strategies and problem-solving skills to families (and friends) of people with mental illness.  This can help them deal with their ill family member better. Family psychoeducation reduces suffering, confusion, and worries within the family, which may help the person recover.  By learning about the illness, family members are aware of what the person with schizophrenia is going through, and they can be more helpful in helping them get better.

5. Identify your strengths and things that you cannot do well.

Knowing your strengths and things that you do not do well will help keep stress at a low level.  This way, you can work to improve on some things, and stop doing others.

6. Therapy

Therapy can be done on an individual or , basis. Therapy can help someone deal with their feelings. It can be helpful for some to understand more about themselves and their problems.  You will have a therapist at Colorado Recovery and several s to choose from.  Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of therapy that can help you reduce the distress caused by voices or false beliefs.

Another way to get into therapy is to call your insurance company to find out which therapists take your insurance.  From there, you choose a therapist, and call them to set up a time to meet with them. 

7. Rehabilitation

There is an array of psychiatric rehabilitation methods that can help you move forward with your life, get a job, get back into school and feel part of the community around you.

Vocational Services can help you find and keep a job.  Through an approach called supported employment, your job coach can work with you and potential employers to find a job that suits you, get trained and do it successfully.  You can get supported employment services from our job coaches at Colorado Recovery or through the Chinook Clubhouse, a psychosocial clubhouse in Boulder.

8. Community Drop-In Center

Community Drop-In Centers will help you have something to do. Keeping busy and doing things you like can help you learn how to keep stress at a comfortable level.  Finding a hobby that you like can help you to learn how to improve your relationship with other people.  You can have free access to the local recreation center through Colorado Recovery.  Community centers give you a choice of how to spend your day.  You could go to a  Psychosocial Clubhouse or drop-in social center.

9. Social skills training

Social skills training can help people with schizophrenia learn how to interact with other people.  Social skills training also helps people learn daily living skills like cooking and cleaning. It can be done in a , with a therapist or in family therapy sessions.  

10. Self-help and support s

Self-help and support s for people with a mental illness and families dealing with mental illnesses are becoming more and more common. These s are really helpful because members give each other constant support. 

Members of support s share their problems and how they got better.  They also are good for hearing about the best places to get treatment. Many people in support s become good friends with the other members of the . 

You can attend one of the s run by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI).  The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill is a non-profit organization whose mission is to advocate on the behalf of persons with mental illness, their families and friends.  The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill has support s all over the country.  You can call the national help line at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) to find a near you.

What else can you do?

  1. Be optimistic, read about The Recovery Model which is a movement inspired by the optimistic, empowerment and interpersonal support which has helped many people with mental illness find the road to recovery.

  2. If you get sick again, go slowly and get back to your everyday duties.

  3. Identify things that cause you stress and then work on the stressful things by choosing ways that reduces the stress.
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    For example, if it stresses you to go food shopping because of the crowds of shoppers, ask the store manager when there will be fewer shopping.  Make only one change in your life at a time.

  4. Avoid street drugs. Stay away from alcohol.

  5. Make clear, practical goals.
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    Set small goals that are easy to do.  Then, as you meet your small goals, set goals that is just a little bit harder.  Take it slow and do not set yourself up for things you know will be really hard to do.  As you meet the small goals, you will start to feel better about taking on bigger goals.  Just remember to be patient and take your time.

  6. Accept that there may be setbacks from time to time.

  7. Plan a regular, reliable, unsurprising daily routine.
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    Make your home as quiet, calm and relaxed as you can.

  8. Work toward an active and trusting relationship with the staff involved in your care.
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    Having someone to trust will help any person in their recovery.  In fact, having trusting relationships with the people that are trying to help you is important for getting better.

  9. Accept that you have an illness that may affect you for a long time to come.

  10. Eat a well-balanced diet.
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    The standard American diet can cause bad health problems, because it is high in fat, salt, and sugar. Even though there are healthy food choices available, we will likely make poor food choices. Poor eating habits, with no exercise and high stress, can cause health problems like being over weight, heart problems, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

  11. Get enough rest.

  12. Get regular exercise.

  13. If you are not sure whether your feelings or fears are real, ask someone you trust or  match your behavior with theirs and get some ideals on how to make some changes.