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Mental Illness Guide: Care, Support, and Education
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Things you should tell the mental health staff

What you can do to make it possible for the mental health professionals to talk to you

If you have not already done so, ask your relative to sign a form that will allow the mental health professional to talk with you about how best to treat his illness.† If he will not sign the form, do not be discouraged.† Keep in mind that some of the symptoms of the illness itself, such as paranoia, may stop your loved one from understanding that you want to be able to help.

Family members can usually tell before anyone else that their loved one is getting sick again.† They know the personís normal routine better than anyone else.

It is common for people with mental illness to say or do certain things when they are getting sick again, such as sleeping less, eating certain things, or dressing differently.  If the mental health professional does not know that these things are happening, he/she may not know that the person is getting sick again.  Call him as soon as possible when you think your loved one is getting sick again.† Mental health professionals can often help to prevent the person with schizophrenia from becoming so ill that he needs to go to the hospital.

What you can do when the mental health professionals cannot talk to you

Family members often do not understand why the mental health professionals cannot talk to them. They feel angry when their loved one is getting sick again and they cannot get information on how to help.   Remember that mental health professionals are not allowed to speak with family members unless the person with mental illness has signed a form that gives them permission to do so. However, there are some things you can do whether or not the mental health professional can talk to you.

1.      Keep a diary

Keep a diary in which you write any information you do know related to your relativeís illness, such as:

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The names of their doctors, therapists, and case managers

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A list of his medications

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A record of behaviors, including sleeping and eating patterns

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A description of any possible side effects he has experienced from his/her medications

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A record of hospital admissions and treatments

2.      Share information with mental health professionals

If the mental health professional does not have permission to speak with you, it may be harder for you to help, but it is not impossible.† The law prevents the mental health professional from telling you anything, but it does not prevent you from sharing information.† Call the mental health professional when you notice signs that your loved one is getting sick again.

If your loved one has threatened to hurt himself, or someone else, call your local crisis unit.