Information for family friends and whanau:
Supporting someone who is experiencing psychosis is a really important responsibility and it can be difficult at times.
Barriers to communication:
Sometimes there can be particular barriers to communication, such as a person’s thinking being muddled, difficulties with attention and concentration, a tendency to isolate, high levels of distress, and sometimes they may distracted by their experiences.
It is not possible to get it right every time, but the following ideas might help with communication:
- Respect their privacy
- Keep your conversations brief
- Give one message at a time and don’t offer too many choices
- You may need to help them stay engaged
- Check that they have understood what you’ve said, and vice versa,
- Try not to dismiss, rubbish or ridicule them, even if what they are saying doesn’t make sense to you. Some of their ideas and experiences may sound unusual but may seem very real to them
- Take a moment to listen respectfully to what they’re saying
- Avoid arguing or getting into a debate unless safety is an issue
People who are recovering from psychosis can be very vulnerable to stress initially. To help reduce stress levels and assist recovery:
- Reduce exposure to conflict (either with them directly or from other relationships).
- Maintain structure and routine, familiarity and predictability
- Reduce expectations (work, jobs etc)
- Encourage participation in familiar activities
- Aim for small achievable goals
- Gradually increase activities as they feel able
Try to provide a structured and predictable environment – the recovering person may have problems with sensory overload. To reduce stress, keep routines simple, and allow the person time alone each day. Plan non-stressful, low-key regular daily activities, and keep ‘big events’ to a minimum.
Be supportive and positive. People who have experienced psychosis need frequent encouragement, particularly since self esteem is often fragile. Encourage all positive efforts; express appreciation for a job even half-done because the person’s confidence, initiative, patience and memory may have been undermined.
Help the person set realistic goals. The person may want to try new things, but should work up to them gradually and not take on too much at a time. The point is to avoid excessive stress, so goals should be reasonable, and nagging should be avoided.
Gradually increase independence. It is important for young people to continue with social activities, education and employment if possible. If college or work are not possible, try to keep up social and recreation activities and help the person plan to use their time constructively.
Anticipate the ups and downs of life and try to prepare accordingly. Sometimes just recognizing in advance something that might be stressful and talking about it can help.
Your positive role-modelling can help someone with psychosis remember to manage stress in an acceptable manner.
Stigma and discrimination:
There is a lot of misinformation and misconceptions about psychosis
The best thing you can do is try to educate those around you about psychosis and about early intervention services.
Like many other health conditions, people who are experiencing psychosis often want this news to be kept private. It is a good idea, therefore, to check with them about who it is OK to share information with.
Similarly, young people sometimes tell our staff things they do not want passed on to their family or friends. While we aim to share all appropriate information openly with close family members, we must respect any request for confidentiality and consider it carefully.
Building trust is a vital part of our work with young people and maintaining confidentiality is central to this. However, if we receive information that leads us to believe there is a serious risk the young person may harm themselves or someone else, we have a duty to pass this on in order to protect everyone involved.
Useful links for friends and family: