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.