Schizophrenia is a severe long-term mental health condition. It causes a range of different psychological symptoms.
Doctors often describe schizophrenia as a type of psychosis. This means the person may not always be able to distinguish their own thoughts and ideas from reality.
Symptoms of schizophrenia include:
- hallucinations – hearing or seeing things that do not exist outside of the mind
- delusions – unusual beliefs not based on reality
- muddled thoughts based on hallucinations or delusions
- losing interest in everyday activities
- not caring about your personal hygiene
- wanting to avoid people, including friends
Schizophrenia does not cause someone to be violent and people with schizophrenia do not have a split personality.
When to seek medical advice
If you're experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, see a GP as soon as possible. The earlier schizophrenia is treated, the better.
There's no single test for schizophrenia. It's usually diagnosed after an assessment by a mental health care professional, such as a psychiatrist.
Causes of schizophrenia
The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown. But most experts believe the condition is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
It's thought that some people are more vulnerable to developing schizophrenia, and certain situations can trigger the condition such as a stressful life event or drug misuse.
Schizophrenia is usually treated with a combination of medicine and therapy tailored to each individual.
In most cases, this will be antipsychotic medicines and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
People with schizophrenia usually receive help from a community mental health team, which offers day-to-day support and treatment.
Many people recover from schizophrenia, although they may have periods when symptoms return (relapses).
Support and treatment can help reduce the impact the condition has on daily life.
Living with schizophrenia
If schizophrenia is well managed, it's possible to reduce the chance of severe relapses.
This can include:
- recognising the signs of an acute episode
- taking medicine as prescribed
- talking to others about the condition
There are many charities and support groups offering help and advice on living with schizophrenia.
Most people find it comforting talking to others with a similar condition.
Schizophrenia changes how a person thinks and behaves.
The condition may develop slowly. The first signs can be hard to identify as they often develop during the teenage years.
Symptoms such as becoming socially withdrawn and unresponsive or changes in sleeping patterns can be mistaken for an adolescent "phase".
People often have episodes of schizophrenia, during which their symptoms are particularly severe, followed by periods where they experience few or no symptoms. This is known as acute schizophrenia.
Positive and negative symptoms
The symptoms of schizophrenia are usually classified into:
- positive symptoms – any change in behaviour or thoughts, such as hallucinations or delusions
- negative symptoms – where people appear to withdraw from the world around then, take no interest in everyday social interactions, and often appear emotionless and flat
Hallucinations are where someone sees, hears, smells, tastes or feels things that do not exist outside their mind. The most common hallucination is hearing voices.
Hallucinations are very real to the person experiencing them, even though people around them cannot hear the voices or experience the sensations.
Research using brain-scanning equipment shows changes in the speech area in the brains of people with schizophrenia when they hear voices. These studies show the experience of hearing voices as a real one, as if the brain mistakes thoughts for real voices.
Some people describe the voices they hear as friendly and pleasant, but more often they're rude, critical, abusive or annoying.
The voices might describe activities taking place, discuss the hearer's thoughts and behaviour, give instructions, or talk directly to the person. Voices may come from different places or 1 place, such as the television.
A delusion is a belief held with complete conviction, even though it's based on a mistaken, strange or unrealistic view. It may affect the way the person behaves. Delusions can begin suddenly or may develop over weeks or months.
Some people develop a delusional idea to explain a hallucination they're having. For example, if they have heard voices describing their actions, they may have a delusion that someone is monitoring their actions.
Someone experiencing a paranoid delusion may believe they're being harassed or persecuted. They may believe they're being chased, followed, watched, plotted against or poisoned, often by a family member or friend.
Some people who experience delusions find different meanings in everyday events or occurrences.
They may believe people on TV or in newspaper articles are communicating messages to them alone, or that there are hidden messages in the colours of cars passing on the street.
Confused thoughts (thought disorder)
People experiencing psychosis often have trouble keeping track of their thoughts and conversations.
Some people find it hard to concentrate and will drift from one idea to another. They may have trouble reading newspaper articles or watching a TV programme.
People sometimes describe their thoughts as "misty" or "hazy" when this is happening to them. Thoughts and speech may become jumbled or confused, making conversation difficult and hard for other people to understand.
Changes in behaviour and thoughts
A person's behaviour may become more disorganised and unpredictable.
Some people describe their thoughts as being controlled by someone else, that their thoughts are not their own, or that thoughts have been planted in their mind by someone else.
Another feeling is that thoughts are disappearing, as though someone is removing them from their mind.
Some people feel their body is being taken over and someone else is directing their movements and actions.
Negative symptoms of schizophrenia
The negative symptoms of schizophrenia can often appear several years before somebody experiences their first acute schizophrenic episode.
These initial negative symptoms are often referred to as the prodromal period of schizophrenia.
Symptoms during the prodromal period usually appear gradually and slowly get worse.
They include the person becoming more socially withdrawn and increasingly not caring about their appearance and personal hygiene.
It can be difficult to tell whether the symptoms are part of the development of schizophrenia or caused by something else.
Negative symptoms experienced by people living with schizophrenia include:
- losing interest and motivation in life and activities, including relationships and sex
- lack of concentration, not wanting to leave the house, and changes in sleeping patterns
- being less likely to initiate conversations and feeling uncomfortable with people, or feeling there's nothing to say
The negative symptoms of schizophrenia can often lead to relationship problems with friends and family as they can sometimes be mistaken for deliberate laziness or rudeness.
Schizophrenia is often described by doctors as a type of psychosis.
A first acute episode of psychosis can be very difficult to cope with, both for the person who is ill and for their family and friends.
Drastic changes in behaviour may occur, and the person can become upset, anxious, confused, angry or suspicious of those around them.
They may not think they need help, and it can be hard to persuade them to visit a doctor.
Read more about understanding psychotic experiences.
The exact causes of schizophrenia are unknown. Research suggests a combination of physical, genetic, psychological and environmental factors can make a person more likely to develop the condition.
Some people may be prone to schizophrenia, and a stressful or emotional life event might trigger a psychotic episode. However, it's not known why some people develop symptoms while others do not.
Schizophrenia tends to run in families, but no single gene is thought to be responsible.
It's more likely that different combinations of genes make people more vulnerable to the condition. However, having these genes does not necessarily mean you'll develop schizophrenia.
Evidence that the disorder is partly inherited comes from studies of twins. Identical twins share the same genes.
In identical twins, if a twin develops schizophrenia, the other twin has a 1 in 2 chance of developing it, too. This is true even if they're raised separately.
In non-identical twins, who have different genetic make-ups, when a twin develops schizophrenia, the other only has a 1 in 8 chance of developing the condition.
While this is higher than in the general population, where the chance is about 1 in 100, it suggests genes are not the only factor influencing the development of schizophrenia.
Studies of people with schizophrenia have shown there are subtle differences in the structure of their brains.
These changes are not seen in everyone with schizophrenia and can occur in people who do not have a mental illness. But they suggest schizophrenia may partly be a disorder of the brain.
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that carry messages between brain cells.
There's a connection between neurotransmitters and schizophrenia because drugs that alter the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain are known to relieve some of the symptoms of schizophrenia.
Research suggests schizophrenia may be caused by a change in the level of 2 neurotransmitters: dopamine and serotonin.
Some studies indicate an imbalance between the 2 may be the basis of the problem. Others have found a change in the body's sensitivity to the neurotransmitters is part of the cause of schizophrenia.
Pregnancy and birth complications
Research has shown people who develop schizophrenia are more likely to have experienced complications before and during their birth, such as:
- a low birthweight
- premature labour
- a lack of oxygen (asphyxia) during birth
It may be that these things have a subtle effect on brain development.
Triggers are things that can cause schizophrenia to develop in people who are at risk.
The main psychological triggers of schizophrenia are stressful life events, such as:
- losing your job or home
- the end of a relationship
- physical, sexual or emotional abuse
These kinds of experiences, although stressful, do not cause schizophrenia. However, they can trigger its development in someone already vulnerable to it.
Drugs do not directly cause schizophrenia, but studies have shown drug misuse increases the risk of developing schizophrenia or a similar illness.
Certain drugs, particularly cannabis, cocaine, LSD or amphetamines, may trigger symptoms of schizophrenia in people who are susceptible.
Using amphetamines or cocaine can lead to psychosis, and can cause a relapse in people recovering from an earlier episode.
Research has shown that teenagers and young adults who use cannabis regularly are more likely to develop schizophrenia in later adulthood.
Want to know more?
There's no single test for schizophrenia and the condition is usually diagnosed after assessment by a specialist in mental health.
If you're concerned you may be developing symptoms of schizophrenia, see a GP as soon as possible. The earlier schizophrenia is treated, the better.
The GP will ask about your symptoms and check they're not the result of other causes, such as recreational drug use.
Community mental health team
If a diagnosis of schizophrenia is suspected, the GP should refer you to your local community mental health team (CMHT).
CMHTs are made up of different mental health professionals who support people with complex mental health conditions.
A member of the CMHT team, usually a psychiatrist or a specialist nurse, will carry out a more detailed assessment of your symptoms. They'll also want to know your personal history and current circumstances.
To make a diagnosis, most mental healthcare professionals use a diagnostic checklist.
Schizophrenia can usually be diagnosed if:
- you've experienced 1 or more of the following symptoms most of the time for a month: delusions, hallucinations, hearing voices, incoherent speech, or negative symptoms, such as a flattening of emotions
- your symptoms have had a significant impact on your ability to work, study or perform daily tasks
- all other possible causes, such as recreational drug use or bipolar disorder, have been ruled out
Sometimes it might not be clear whether someone has schizophrenia. If you have other symptoms at the same time, a psychiatrist may have reason to believe you have a related mental illness, such as:
- bipolar disorder – people with bipolar disorder swing from periods of elevated moods and extremely active, excited behaviour (mania) to periods of deep depression; some people also hear voices or experience other kinds of hallucinations, or may have delusions
- schizoaffective disorder – this is often described as a form of schizophrenia because its symptoms are similar to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but schizoaffective disorder is a mental illness in its own right; it may occur just once in a person's life, or come and go and be triggered by stress
Getting help for someone else
As a result of their delusional thought patterns, people with schizophrenia may be reluctant to visit their GP if they believe there's nothing wrong with them.
It's likely someone who has had acute schizophrenic episodes in the past will have been assigned a care co-ordinator. If this is the case, contact the person's care co-ordinator to express your concerns.
If someone is having an acute schizophrenic episode for the first time, it may be necessary for a friend, relative or another loved one to persuade them to visit their GP.
In the case of a rapidly worsening schizophrenic episode, you may need to go to the accident and emergency (A&E) department, where a duty psychiatrist will be available.
If a person who is having an acute schizophrenic episode refuses get seek help, their nearest relative can request that a mental health assessment is carried out. The social services department of your local authority can advise how to do this. Find your local authority.
In severe cases, people can be compulsorily detained in hospital for assessment and treatment under the Mental Health Act (2007).
If you or a friend or relative are diagnosed with schizophrenia, you may feel anxious about what will happen. You may be worried about the stigma attached to the condition, or feel frightened and withdrawn.
It's important to remember that a diagnosis can be a positive step towards getting good, straightforward information about the illness and the kinds of treatment and services available.
Diagnosing children and young people
Children and young people with a first episode of schizophrenia should be referred urgently to a specialist mental health service.
This should be either children and young people's mental health services (CYPMHHS) for those aged up to 17, or an early intervention service for those aged 14 years or over, that includes a consultant psychiatrist with training in children and young people's mental health.
Schizophrenia is usually treated with an individually tailored combination of talking therapy and medicine.
Most people with schizophrenia are treated by community mental health teams (CMHTs).
The goal of the CMHT is to provide day-to-day support and treatment while ensuring you have as much independence as possible.
A CMHT can be made up of and provide access to:
- social workers
- community mental health nurses – who have specialist training in mental health conditions
- occupational therapists
- counsellors and psychotherapists
- psychologists and psychiatrists – the psychiatrist is usually the senior clinician in the team
After your first episode of schizophrenia, you should initially be referred to an early intervention team.
These specialist teams provide treatment and support, and are usually made up of psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health nurses, social workers and support workers.
Care programme approach (CPA)
People with complex mental health conditions are usually entered into a treatment process known as a care programme approach (CPA). A CPA is essentially a way of ensuring you receive the right treatment for your needs.
There are 4 stages to a CPA:
- assessment – your health and social needs are assessed
- care plan – a care plan is created to meet your health and social needs
- key worker appointed – a key worker, usually a social worker or nurse, is your first point of contact with other members of the CMHT
- reviews – your treatment will be regularly reviewed and, if needed, changes to the care plan can be agreed
Not everyone uses the CPA. Some people may be cared for by their GP, while others may be under the care of a specialist.
You'll work together with your healthcare team to develop a care plan. The care plan may involve an advance statement or crisis plan, which can be followed in an emergency.
Your care plan should include a combined healthy eating and physical activity programme and support for giving up smoking, if you smoke.
Your care co-ordinator will be responsible for making sure all members of your healthcare team, including your GP, have a copy of your care plan.
- Rethink Mental Illness: Care programme approach
People who have serious psychotic symptoms as the result of an acute schizophrenic episode may require a more intensive level of care than a CMHT can provide.
These episodes are usually dealt with by antipsychotic medication and special care.
Crisis resolution teams (CRT)
A treatment option is to contact a home treatment or crisis resolution team (CRT). CRTs treat people with serious mental health conditions who are currently experiencing an acute and severe psychiatric crisis.
Without the involvement of the CRT, these people would require treatment in hospital.
The CRT aims to treat people in the least restrictive environment possible, ideally in or near their home. This can be in your own home, in a dedicated crisis residential home or hostel, or in a day care centre.
CRTs are also responsible for planning aftercare once the crisis has passed to prevent a further crisis occurring.
Your care co-ordinator should be able to provide you and your friends or family with contact information in the event of a crisis.
Voluntary and compulsory detention
More serious acute schizophrenic episodes may require admission to a psychiatric ward at a hospital or clinic. You can admit yourself voluntarily to hospital if your psychiatrist agrees it's necessary.
People can also be compulsorily detained at a hospital under the Mental Health Act (2007), but this is rare.
It's only possible for someone to be compulsorily detained at a hospital if they have a severe mental disorder and if detention is necessary:
- in the interests of the person's own health and safety
- to protect others
People with schizophrenia who are compulsorily detained may need to be kept in locked wards.
All people being treated in hospital will stay only as long as is absolutely necessary for them to receive appropriate treatment and arrange aftercare.
An independent panel will regularly review your case and progress. Once they feel you're no longer a danger to yourself and others, you'll be discharged from hospital. However, your care team may recommend you remain in hospital voluntarily.
If it's felt there's a significant risk of future acute schizophrenic episodes occurring, you may want to write an advance statement.
An advance statement is a series of written instructions about what you would like your family or friends to do in case you experience another acute schizophrenic episode. You may also want to include contact details for your care co-ordinator.
If you want to make an advance statement, talk to your care co-ordinator, psychiatrist or GP.
Antipsychotics are usually recommended as the initial treatment for the symptoms of an acute schizophrenic episode. They work by blocking the effect of the chemical dopamine on the brain.
Antipsychotics can usually reduce feelings of anxiety or aggression within a few hours of use, but may take several days or weeks to reduce other symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusional thoughts.
It's important that your doctor gives you a thorough physical examination before you start taking antipsychotics, and that you work together to find the right one for you.
Antipsychotics can be taken orally as a pill, or be given as an injection known as a depot. Several slow-release antipsychotics are available. These require you to have one injection every 2 to 4 weeks.
You may only need antipsychotics until your acute schizophrenic episode has passed.
However, most people take medication for 1 or 2 years after their first psychotic episode to prevent further acute schizophrenic episodes occurring, and for longer if the illness is recurrent.
There are 2 main types of antipsychotics:
- typical antipsychotics – the first generation of antipsychotics developed in the 1950s
- atypical antipsychotics – newer-generation antipsychotics developed in the 1990s
The choice of antipsychotic should be made following a discussion between you and your psychiatrist about the likely benefits and side effects.
Both typical and atypical antipsychotics can cause side effects, although not everyone will experience them and the severity will differ from person to person.
The side effects of typical antipsychotics include:
- muscle twitches
- muscle spasms
Side effects of both typical and atypical antipsychotics include:
- weight gain, particularly with some atypical antipsychotics
- blurred vision
- lack of sex drive
- dry mouth
Tell your care co-ordinator, psychiatrist or GP if your side effects become severe. There may be an alternative antipsychotic you can take or additional medicines that will help you deal with the side effects.
If you do not benefit from your antipsychotic medicine after taking it regularly for several weeks, an alternative can be tried. It's important to work with your treatment team to find the right medicine for you.
Do not stop taking your antipsychotics without first consulting your care co-ordinator, psychiatrist or GP. If you stop taking them, you could have a relapse of symptoms.
Your medicine should be reviewed at least once a year.
Psychological treatment can help people with schizophrenia cope with the symptoms of hallucinations or delusions better.
They can also help treat some of the negative symptoms of schizophrenia, such as apathy or a lack of enjoyment and interest in things you used to enjoy.
Psychological treatments for schizophrenia work best when they're combined with antipsychotic medication.
Common psychological treatments for schizophrenia include:
- cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
- family therapy
- arts therapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) aims to help you identify the thinking patterns that are causing you to have unwanted feelings and behaviour, and learn to change this thinking with more realistic and useful thoughts.
For example, you may be taught to recognise examples of delusional thinking. You may then receive help and advice about how to avoid acting on these thoughts.
Most people require a series of CBT sessions over the course of a number of months. CBT sessions usually last for about an hour.
Your GP or care co-ordinator should be able to arrange a referral to a CBT therapist.
Many people with schizophrenia rely on family members for their care and support. While most family members are happy to help, caring for somebody with schizophrenia can place a strain on any family.
Family therapy is a way of helping you and your family cope better with your condition. It involves a series of informal meetings over a period of around 6 months.
Meetings may include:
- discussing information about schizophrenia
- exploring ways of supporting somebody with schizophrenia
- deciding how to solve practical problems that can be caused by the symptoms of schizophrenia
If you think you and your family could benefit from family therapy, speak to your care co-ordinator or GP.
Arts therapies are designed to promote creative expression. Working with an arts therapist in a small group or individually can allow you to express your experiences with schizophrenia.
Some people find expressing things in a non-verbal way through the arts can provide a new experience of schizophrenia and help them develop new ways of relating to others.
Arts therapies have been shown to alleviate the negative symptoms of schizophrenia in some people.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that arts therapies are provided by an arts therapist registered with the Health and Care Professions Council who has experience of working with people with schizophrenia.
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Most people with schizophrenia make a recovery, although many will experience the occasional return of symptoms (relapses).
Support and treatment can help you to manage your condition and the impact it has on your life.
Caring for your own health can also make treating your condition easier and help reduce anxiety, depression and fatigue. It can help you have a better quality of life and be more active and independent.
Self care includes:
- maintaining good physical and mental health
- preventing illness or accidents
- effectively dealing with minor ailments and long-term conditions
As part of the care programme approach, you'll be in contact with your healthcare team regularly.
Having a good relationship with the team means you can easily discuss your symptoms or concerns. The more they know, the more they can help you.
Spotting the signs of an acute schizophrenic episode
Learning to recognise the signs that you're becoming unwell can help you manage your illness. Signs can include losing your appetite, feeling anxious or stressed, or having disturbed sleep.
You may also notice some milder symptoms developing, such as:
- feeling suspicious or fearful
- worrying about people's motives
- hearing quiet voices now and again
- finding it difficult to concentrate
You may also want to ask someone you trust to tell you if they notice your behaviour changing.
Recognising the initial signs of an acute schizophrenic episode can be useful, as it may be prevented through the use of antipsychotic medicines and extra support.
If you have another acute episode of schizophrenia, your written care plan should be followed, particularly any advance statement or crisis plan.
Your care plan will include the likely signs of a developing relapse and the steps to take, including emergency contact numbers.
Read about treating schizophrenia for information about advance statements.
Taking your medicine
It's important to take your medicine as prescribed, even if you start to feel better. Continuous medicine can help prevent relapses.
If you have questions or concerns about medicine you're taking or any side effects, talk to your GP or care co-ordinator.
It may also be useful to read the information leaflet that comes with the medicine about possible interactions with other drugs or supplements.
It's worth checking with your healthcare team if you plan to take any over-the-counter remedies, such as painkillers, or any nutritional supplements, as these can sometimes interfere with your medicine.
As well as monitoring your mental health, your healthcare team and GP should monitor your physical health.
A healthy lifestyle, including having a balanced diet with lots of fruit and vegetables and taking regular exercise, is good for you and can reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease or diabetes. You should also try to avoid too much stress and have a regular sleep pattern.
You should have a check-up with a GP at least once a year to monitor your risk of developing cardiovascular disease or diabetes. This will include recording your weight, checking your blood pressure, and having any appropriate blood tests.
Rates of smoking in people with schizophrenia are 3 times higher than in the general population. If you're a smoker, you're at a higher risk of developing cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Stopping smoking has clear physical health benefits, but it's also been shown to improve the mental health of people with schizophrenia.
Research has shown you're up to 4 times more likely to quit smoking if you use NHS support as well as stop smoking medicines, such as patches, gum or inhalators.
Ask your GP about this or go to the NHS Smokefree website to find out more.
If you take antipsychotic medicines and want to stop smoking, it's very important to talk to your GP or psychiatrist before you stop.
The dosage of your prescription drugs may need to be monitored and the amount you have to take could be reduced.
Avoiding drugs and alcohol
While alcohol and drugs may provide short-term relief from your symptoms, they're likely to make your symptoms worse in the long run.
Alcohol can cause depression and psychosis, while illegal drugs may make your schizophrenia worse. Drugs and alcohol can also react badly with antipsychotic medicines.
If you're currently using drugs or alcohol and finding it hard to stop, ask your care co-ordinator or GP for help.
Who is available to help me?
In the course of your treatment for schizophrenia, you'll be involved with many different services. Some are accessed through referral from a GP, others through the local authority.
These services may include:
- community mental health teams (CMHTs) – these provide the main part of local specialist mental health services, and offer assessment, treatment and social care to people living with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses
- trained peer support – this involves the support of someone who has had schizophrenia themselves and is now stable, and may be available through your CMHT
- early intervention teams – these provide early identification and treatment for people with the first symptoms of psychosis; your GP may be able to refer you directly to an early intervention team
- crisis services – specialist mental health teams that help with crises that occur outside normal office hours and allow people to be treated at home for an acute episode of illness instead of in hospital
- acute day hospitals – an alternative to inpatient care in a hospital, where you can visit every day or as often as necessary
- assertive outreach teams – deliver intensive treatment and rehabilitation in the community for people with severe mental health problems and provide rapid help in a crisis situation; staff often visit people at home, act as advocates, liaise with other services (such as your GP or social services), and can also help with practical problems (such as helping find housing and work) and daily tasks (such as shopping and cooking)
- advocates – trained and experienced workers who help people communicate their needs or wishes, get impartial information, and represent their views to other people; they can be based in your hospital or mental health support groups, or you can find an independent advocate to act on your behalf
Employment and financial support
Avoid too much stress, including work-related stress. If you're employed, you may be able to work shorter hours or in a more flexible way.
Under the Equality Act 2010, all employers must make reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities, including people diagnosed with schizophrenia or other mental illnesses.
Several organisations provide support, training and advice for people with schizophrenia who wish to continue working.
Your community mental health team is a good first point of contact to find out what services and support are available for you.
Mental health charities such as Mind or Rethink Mental Illness are also excellent sources of information on training and employment.
If you're unable to work as a result of your mental illness, you're entitled to financial support, such as Incapacity Benefit.
- GOV.UK: Disability and the Equality Act 2010
- GOV.UK: Incapacity Benefit
- Money Advice Service
- Rethink Mental Illness: Money, benefits and employment
Talk to others
Many people find it helpful to meet other people with the same experiences for mutual support and to share ideas. It's also an important reminder that you're not alone.
Charities and support groups allow individuals and families to share experiences and coping strategies, campaign for better services, and provide support.
Useful charities, support groups and associations include:
There are also other places that offer support to people with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.
Even if you do not have a job or are unable to work, it's still important to go out and do everyday things and give a structure to your week.
Many people regularly go to a day hospital, day centre or community mental health centre. These offer a range of activities that allow you to get active again and spend some time in the company of other people.
These provide training to help you develop your work skills and support you back into work. They often have contacts with local employers.
This could be a bedsit or flat where there's someone around who is trained to support you and help you deal with day-to-day problems.
You may be offered the chance to meet regularly with a trained peer support worker who has recovered from psychosis or schizophrenia themselves.
What can family, friends and partners do to help?
Friends, relatives and partners have a vital role in helping people with schizophrenia recover, and make a relapse less likely.
Do not blame the person with schizophrenia or tell them to "pull themselves together", or blame other people. It's important to stay positive and supportive when dealing with a friend or loved one's mental illness.
As well as supporting the person with schizophrenia, you may want to get support to cope with your own feelings. Several voluntary organisations provide help and support for carers.
Friends and family should try to understand what schizophrenia is, how it affects people, and how they can help. You can provide emotional and practical support, and encourage people to get appropriate support and treatment.
As part of someone's treatment, you may be offered family therapy. This can provide information and support for the person with schizophrenia and their family.
Friends and family can play a major role by monitoring the person's mental state, watching out for any signs of relapse, and encouraging them to take their medication and attend medical appointments.
If you're the nearest relative of a person who has schizophrenia, you have certain rights that can be used to protect the patient's interests.
These include requesting that the local social services authority ask an approved mental health professional to consider whether the person with schizophrenia should be detained in hospital.
Depression and suicide
Many people with schizophrenia experience periods of depression. Do not ignore these symptoms. If depression is not treated, it can worsen and lead to suicidal thoughts.
Studies have shown people with schizophrenia are at an increased risk of suicide.
If you've been feeling particularly down over the last month and no longer take pleasure in the things you used to enjoy, you may be depressed. See your GP for advice and treatment.
Immediately report any suicidal thoughts to your GP or care co-ordinator.
The warning signs of suicide
The warning signs that people with depression and schizophrenia may be considering suicide include:
- making final arrangements – such as giving away possessions, making a will or saying goodbye to friends
- talking about death or suicide – this may be a direct statement such as, "I wish I was dead", or indirect phrases such as, "I think that dead people must be happier than us", or "Wouldn't it be nice to go to sleep and never wake up?"
- self-harm – such as cutting their arms or legs, or burning themselves with cigarettes
- a sudden lifting of mood – this could mean a person has decided to try to end their life (suicide) and feels better because of their decision
Helping a suicidal friend or relative
If you see any of these warning signs:
- get professional help for the person, such as from a crisis resolution team or the duty psychiatrist at your local A&E department
- let them know they're not alone and you care about them
- offer your support in finding other solutions to their problems
If you feel there's an immediate danger of the person attempting to end their life (suicide), stay with them or have someone else stay with them. Remove all available means of suicide, such as sharp objects and medication.