Talking to a Person with Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia pic
Schizophrenia
Image: livestrong.com

With a master’s in biomedical science, Todd Belok currently serves as a mental health technician at Temple University Hospital – Episcopal Campus in Philadelphia. In this role, Todd Belok works with patients diagnosed with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.

Talking with a person who has schizophrenia requires both patience and compassion. The disorder causes an altered perception of reality that can be difficult for people with normal cognition to understand. The most important thing is to try to understand the person’s perceptions of the world and accept that whatever they are experiencing is real to them.

Individuals with schizophrenia often find it reassuring when a conversation partner repeats back what they have said and validates their experience of the situation. It is important not to argue with their beliefs but rather to consistently reassure them that they are safe and cared for. If possible, caregivers can remove the individual from a situation perceived as frightening, giving simple and straightforward directions if necessary.

Caregiver can offer to talk or provide help, but they should know that the individual may be suspicious or jumpy. To appear more trustworthy, caregivers can give the individual plenty of space and explain their actions in advance. A simple preparatory statement, such as “I’m going to pull this chair over,” can help to reduce fear and affirm a sense of safety.

Talking to Someone with Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia pic
Schizophrenia
Image: WebMD.com

As a mental health technician at Temple University Hospital’s Episcopal campus, Todd Belok plays a key role in caring for individuals with psychiatric illnesses. Having served in this and similar roles for more than five years, Todd Belok has built in-depth experience in working with patients who have schizophrenia diagnoses.

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that interferes with an individual’s ability to relate to reality as others perceive it. Those with the condition typically experience hallucinations, delusions, and other symptoms of psychosis, as well as disturbed speech and emotional expression. People with schizophrenia often speak in a way that appears nonsensical and have trouble sustaining a logical train of thought, and this symptom set can make communication a challenge.

Family members, friends, and caregivers of persons with schizophrenia must be patient in attempting to have a conversation. Simple and straightforward sentences often help, but speakers must be cautious to retain a respectful tone and avoid condescension.

It is equally important to avoid arguing with the individual or challenging the validity of his or her delusions, as this is likely to increase rather than mitigate agitation. Instead, it’s better to express empathy for felt distress and reassure the patient of supportive presence. The patient may also appreciate help in getting away from the source of fear and into a quiet place where fewer distractions can be calming to the mind.