British Columbia Schizophrenia Society 2001 “Families Helping Families”
Table of Contents
What is Psychosis? . 2 First Episode and Types of Psychosis . 3 Symptoms . 6 Time is of the Essence . 8 Early Warning Signs . 9 How Families are Affected.10 Guidelines for Families & Friends .11 Finding Effective Medical Help .16 Recovery.19 FAQ’s: Frequently Asked Questions .20 “I’m a Teacher  What Can I Do?”.23 Myths and Misconceptions .25 Education Programs .26 BC Schizophrenia Society (BCSS) Branches. 28 Regional Family Coordinators .29 Family Support Outside BC. .30 Glossary .31 The BC Mental Health Act .35 Early Psychosis Education Resources
What is Psychosis?
Psychosis can happen to anyone. Like any other illness, it can
be treated…

• Psychosis often strikes young people in their prime • Psychosis distorts the senses, making it very difficult for the ill person to tell what is real from what is not real • Usual age for occurrence of first-episode psychosis is 16 to 25 • Men and women are affected with equal frequency, but: ∗ For men, the age of onset for schizophrenia is often ∗ For women, the age of onset is sometimes later— • Medical assessment and treatment are necessary

Early assessment, education and treatment greatly improve
outcomes for the individual and their family. The word psychosis is used to describe medical conditions that affect the brain, so that there is loss of contact with reality. When someone becomes ill in this way, it is called a psychotic episode. Psychosis is most likely to occur in young adults and is quite common. About 3 out of every 100 people will experience a psychotic episode, making psychosis more common than diabetes. Most people make a full recovery from the experience. Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know — First-Episode Psychosis

First-episode psychosis refers to the first time a person experiences psychotic
symptoms. Someone experiencing a first-episode psychosis may not
understand what is happening. Symptoms are unfamiliar and frightening,
leaving the person confused and distressed. If they do not know the facts and
have no real understanding about mental illness, their distress may be
increased by negative myths and stereotypes.
A psychotic episode occurs in three phases. The length of each phase varies
from person to person.
Phase 1: Prodrome
The early signs of psychosis are vague and sometimes hardly noticeable.
There may be changes in the way people describe their feelings, thoughts
and perceptions.

Phase 2: Acute
Clear psychotic symptoms are experienced, such as disorganized thinking,
hallucinations, or delusions.
Phase 3: Recovery
Psychosis is treatable and most people recover. The pattern of recovery
varies from person to person.
People recover from first-episode psychosis. Many never experience another
psychotic episode.

Types of Psychosis

When someone has a psychosis, a particular psychotic illness is usually
diagnosed. Diagnosis means identification of an illness by symptoms, so the
person’s diagnosis will depend on what may have triggered the illness and
how long the symptoms last.
When someone experiences psychosis for the first time, it can be difficult to
make an exact diagnosis, because many of the factors underlying the illness
may be unclear. Nevertheless, it is helpful to understand some of the
diagnostic labels you might hear.
Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know —
Drug- Induced Psychosis
Using or withdrawing from drugs and alcohol can cause psychotic symptoms.
Sometimes these symptoms will rapidly disappear as the substance wears
off. In other cases, the illness may last longer, but begin with a drug-induced
Organic Psychosis
Psychotic symptoms may appear due to a head injury or a physical illness
that disrupts brain functioning, such as encephalitis, AIDS or a tumour. There
are usually other symptoms present, such as memory problems or confusion.
Brief Reactive Psychosis
Psychotic symptoms may arise suddenly in response to major stress in
someone's life, such as a death in the family or other important change of
circumstances. Symptoms can be severe, but the person makes a quick
recovery in only a few days.
Schizophrenia refers to an illness in which the changes in behaviour or
symptoms have been present for a period of at least six months. Again,
symptoms, severity and length of illness vary from person to person. Contrary
to previous beliefs, schizophrenia is a fairly common illness (one in 100), and
many people with schizophrenia lead happy and fulfilling lives.
Schizophreniform Disorder
This diagnosis is usually given when symptoms have lasted for less than six
Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression)
Bipolar disorder is a "mood disorder”. Psychosis appears as part of a more
general disturbance in mood, which is characterized by extreme highs
(mania) and lows (depression). Psychotic symptoms tend to fit with the
person's mood. If they are unusually excited or happy, they may believe they
are special and can perform amazing feats. If they are depressed, they may
hear voices telling them to commit suicide.
Major Depression
Also a "mood disorder". This is severe clinical depression with psychotic
symptoms but without periods of mania or highs occurring during the illness.
Schizoaffective Disorder
This diagnosis is made when the clinical picture is not "typical" of either a
mood disorder or schizophrenia, but the person has concurrent or
consecutive symptoms of both illnesses.
* Information in this section adapted from the Early Psychosis Prevention and
Intervention Centre (EPPIC), Melbourne, Australia
Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know — Causes of Psychosis
Several theories exist regarding the causes psychosis, but there is still much research to be done. What is known at the moment indicates that psychosis may be caused by a combination of biological factors that create a vulnerability to psychosis during adolescence or early adult life. Symptoms can emerge in response to stress or drug use, or they may be biologically determined to emerge at a certain stage of development regardless of life experience. In first-episode psychosis, the cause is particularly unclear. Therefore, it is necessary for the person to have a complete medical examination  including neurological workup  to make the diagnosis as clear as possible.
The course and outcome of psychosis varies considerably from
person to person.

The earlier psychosis is recognized, medically assessed and
treated  the better the outlook.
Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know — Symptoms

Just as other illnesses have signs or symptoms, so does psychosis.
Symptoms are not identical for everyone. Some people may have only one
episode of psychosis in their lifetime. Others may have recurring episodes,
but lead relatively normal lives in between. Others may have severe
symptoms for a lifetime.
Psychosis always involves a change in ability and personality. Family
members and friends notice that the person is "not the same." Because they
are experiencing perceptual difficulties—trouble knowing what is real from
what is not real—the person who is ill often begins to withdraw as their
symptoms become more pronounced. Deterioration is usually observed in:

To understand the experience of psychosis, it is useful to group together some of the more characteristic symptoms:
Personality change is often a key to recognizing psychosis. At first,
changes may be subtle, minor and go unnoticed. Eventually, such changes become obvious to family, friends, classmates or co-workers. There is a loss or lack of emotion, interest and motivation. A normally outgoing person may become withdrawn, quiet, or moody. Emotions may be inappropriate—the person may laugh in a sad situation, or cry over a joke—or may be unable to show any emotion at all.
Thought disorder is the most profound change, since it prevents clear
thinking and rational response. Thoughts may be slow to form, or come extra fast, or not at all. The person may jump from topic to topic, seem confused, or have difficulty making simple decisions.
Delusions —false beliefs that have no logical basis  may colour
thinking. Some people feel they are being persecuted, spied on or plotted against. They may be convinced the police are watching them. Or they may have grandiose delusions; believe they are all-powerful, capable of anything, even invulnerable to danger. They may also have a strong religious drive, believing they have a personal mission to right the wrongs of the world. Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know —
Perceptual changes turn the world of the ill person topsy-turvy. Sensory
messages to the brain from the eyes, ears, nose, skin, and taste buds become confused—and the person may actually hear, see, smell or feel sensations that are not real. These are hallucinations. People with psychosis will often hear voices. Sometimes the voices are threatening or condemning; they may also give direct orders such as, "kill yourself”. There is always a danger that such commands will be obeyed.
People who are ill may also have visual hallucinations—a door in a wall
where no door exists; a lion, a tiger, or a long-dead relative may suddenly
appear. Colours, shapes, and faces may change before the person's eyes.
There may also be hypersensitivity to sounds, tastes, and smells. A ringing
telephone might seem as loud as a fire alarm bell, or a loved one's voice
as threatening as a barking dog. Sense of touch may also be distorted.
Someone may literally “feel” their skin is crawling—or conversely, they may
feel nothing, not even pain from a real injury.

Sense of Self: When one or all five senses are affected, the person may
feel out of time, out of space—free floating and bodiless—and non-existent as a person. Someone who is experiencing such profound and frightening
changes will often try to keep them a secret.

There is often a strong need to deny what is happening, and to avoid other
people and situations where the fact that one is “different” might be
discovered. Intense misperceptions of reality trigger feelings of dread, panic,
fear, and anxiety—natural reactions to such terrifying experiences.
Psychological distress is intense, but the person will often try to keep it hidden due to a strong sense of either denial of fear. People with psychosis need understanding, patience, and reassurance that they will not be abandoned. Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know — Time is of the Essence…

• Preservation of psychosocial skills, social and environmental • Reduced secondary morbidity (depression, cognitive damage,

• Treatment delays can cause illness to worsen, and to be less • Early treatment reduces the risk of cognitive damage  memory loss, impaired executive functioning, learning disabilities  that accompanies brain changes in some illnesses, such as schizophrenia • Timely and appropriate treatment maximizes better long-term • The longer the illness goes untreated, the longer it takes for • The less remission there is, the higher the risk of relapse. Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know — Early Warning Signs
The following list of warning signs was developed by people whose family
members have suffered from psychosis. Many behaviours described are
within the range of normal responses to situations, especially for young
people. Yet families sense—even when symptoms are mild—that behaviour
is “unusual”; that the person is somehow "not the same".
The number and severity of these symptoms differ from person to person—
although almost everyone mentions noticeable social withdrawal.
• Deterioration of personal hygiene
• Sleeping excessively or inability Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know — How Families Are Affected
“The typical family of a young person suffering from psychosis is often in chaos. Parents may look frantically for answers or try to deny that anything is wrong; siblings want to flee. If the ill person doesn’t receive proper medical care, the family may be destroyed no matter how hard they try to survive.” Mother of a young man with psychosis When parents learn their child is suffering from psychosis, they may experience a range of strong emotions. They may be shocked, sad, angry, confused, and dismayed. Some have described their reactions as follows: ∗ Sorrow ("We feel like we’ve lost our child.") ∗ Anxiety ("We're afraid to leave him alone or hurt his feelings.") ∗ Fear ("Will the ill person harm himself or others?") ∗ Shame and guilt ("Are we to blame? What will people think?") ∗ Feelings of isolation ("No one else could ever understand.") ∗ Ambivalence toward the afflicted person ("We love him so much, but when his illness makes him so aggressive, we wish he'd just go away.") ∗ Anger and jealousy ("Siblings resent the attention given to the ill family ∗ Depression (“We can't even talk without crying.") ∗ Total denial of the illness ("This can't be happening to our family.") ∗ Blaming each other (“If you had been a better parent.") ∗ Marital discord ("Our relationship became cold. I felt dead inside.") ∗ Divorce ("It just tore our family apart.") ∗ Preoccupation with "moving away" ("Maybe if we lived somewhere else, ∗ Sleeplessness ("I've aged double time in the last seven years.") ∗ Weight loss ("We’ve been through the mill, and it shows in our health.") ∗ Withdrawal from social activities ("We don't attend family get-togethers.") ∗ Excessive searching for possible explanations ("Was it something we did?) ∗ Increased use of alcohol or tranquilizers ("Our evening drink turned into ∗ Fear of the future (“What's going to happen? Who will take care of our child if he doesn’t get better?") Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know — Guidelines for Families and Friends


When odd behaviour is experienced or observed, it makes good sense to seek advice from a doctor. Acute psychosis may occur suddenly, but more often it will develop over a period of time. The following symptoms are important: ▪ Marked change in personality ▪ A constant feeling of being watched ▪ Difficulty controlling one's thoughts ▪ Inability to “turn off the imagination” ▪ Hearing voices or sounds others don’t hear ▪ Increased withdrawal from social contacts ▪ Seeing people or things that others don’t see ▪ Difficulties with language—words do not make sense ▪ Sudden excesses, such as extreme religiosity ▪ Irrational, angry, or fearful responses to loved ones ▪ Sleeplessness and agitation
These symptoms, even in combination, may not be evidence of psychosis.
They could be the result of injury, drug use, or extreme emotional distress
(see What is Psychosis on pages 3 and 4).
• Take the initiative. If symptoms of psychosis are occurring, ask your
doctor for an assessment or referral.
Family members and friends are
usually the first to notice symptoms and suggest medical help. Remember, if
the ill person accepts hallucinations and delusions as reality, they may resist
• Be persistent. Find a doctor who is familiar with psychosis.
The assessment and treatment of early psychosis should be done by people
who are well-qualified. Choose a physician who has an interest in this area,
someone who is competent and has empathy with patients and their families.
Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know —
Remember—if you lack confidence in a physician or psychiatrist, you always
have the right to seek a second opinion.
• Assist the doctor/psychiatrist. Patients with psychosis may not be able
to volunteer much information during an assessment. Talk to the doctor
yourself, or write a letter describing your concerns. Be specific. Be persistent.
The information you supply can help the physician towards more accurate
assessment and treatment.
Other sources of assessment and treatment: The Ministry of Health and
the Ministry of Children and Families are the government departments
responsible for Mental Health Services in British Columbia. Assessment and
treatment are available through regional Mental Health centres throughout the
province. Check your phone book, or call the BC Schizophrenia Society to
find the one nearest you. If the young person is still in school, the school
counsellor should also be able to assist with a referral.
Making First Contact!
∗ Rehearse before you call. State what you need ∗ Make a note of the names of the people you talk to, along with the date and approximate time. ∗ If you cannot get the help or information you need, ask to speak to a case manager, supervisor, or the person in charge. ∗ If you cannot immediately reach the doctor or case manager, ask when you may expect a return call, or when the person will be free for you to call back. Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know —
There may be exchanges between doctor and patient that a patient feels are of a highly personal nature and wants to keep confidential. However, family members or close friends often need information related to care and treatment. You should be able to discuss the following with the doctor:
Provide plenty of support and loving care.
Help the person accept their
illness by dealing with it in a matter of fact manner. Try to show by your
attitude and behaviour that there is hope, that things can be managed, and
that life can be satisfying and productive.
Help the person maintain a record of information on:
• Effects of various types of treatment

Family and friends should be familiar with signs of “relapse”— where the ill person may suffer a period of deterioration due to a flare up of symptoms. It helps to know that signs of impending relapse are quite specific for some people. Signs vary from person to person, but the most common are: • Increased withdrawal from activities • Deterioration of basic personal care. 5. MANAGING FROM DAY TO DAY
Ensure that there is follow-up care and treatment. This means taking
medication if prescribed
, keeping ongoing appointments for cognitive testing,
psychosocial education and rehabilitation if necessary.

Try to provide a structured and predictable environment. The recovering
patient will have problems with sensory overload. To reduce stress, keep
Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know —
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 consistent.
All family members and friends including the patient should
agree on a plan of action and follow it. If recurring concerns are handled in a
predictable manner, it reduces confusion and stress for the person who has
been ill. Set limits on how much abnormal behaviour is acceptable, and
consistently apply the consequences. Some relearning may be necessary.
Maintain peace and calm at home. Thought disorder can be an ongoing
problem for some people. It generally helps to keep voice levels down. When
the person is participating in discussions, try to speak one at a time, and at a
reasonably moderated pace. Shorter sentences can also help. Above all,
avoid arguing about delusions (false beliefs).
Be positive and supportive. Being positive instead of critical will help the
person much more in the long run. People who have experienced psychosis
need frequent encouragement, since self-esteem is often very fragile.
Encourage all positive efforts. Be sure to express appreciation for a job even
half-done, because the person’s confidence, initiative, patience, and memory
have often been undermined.
Help the person set realistic goals. Some people who have experienced
psychosis may need lots of encouragement to regain some of their former
skills and interests. They may also 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

Gradually increase independence.
As participation in a variety of tasks,
recreational and social activities increases, so should independence. It is
important for young people to continue with social activities, education and
employment if possible. If school or work are not possible, try to keep up
social and recreation activities and help the person plan to use their time
Learn how to cope with stress together. Anticipate the ups and downs of
life and try to prepare accordingly. The person who has been ill needs to learn
to deal with stress in an acceptable manner. Your positive role-modelling can
help. Sometimes just recognizing in advance something that might be
stressful and talking about it can also help.

Encourage the person to try something new.
Offer help selecting an
appropriate activity. If requested, go along the first time for moral support.
Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know —
Be good to yourself. SELF-CARE is very important—even crucial—to every
individual, and ultimately helps the functioning of the entire family. Let go of
any outdated notions of guilt and shame. Remember—poor parenting or poor
communication does not cause psychosis, nor is it the result of any personal
failure by the individual.
Value your own privacy. Keep up your own friendships and outside
interests, and try to lead as orderly a life as possible.
Do not neglect other family members. Brothers and sisters often secretly
share the same guilt and fear as their parents. They may worry that they
might also experience psychosis. When their concerns are neglected, they
may feel jealous or resentful of the ill person. Siblings of people who have
experienced psychosis need special attention and support to deal with these
GET SUPPORT. Learn From Others Who Have Similar Experience
Check for resources in your community. If someone in your family
experiences a psychosis — it helps to know you are not alone.
Support groups are good for sharing experiences with others. You will also
get useful advice about your local mental health services from those who
have “been there.”
Knowing where to go and who to see—and how to avoid wasting precious
time and energy—can make a world of difference when trying to find good
treatment. Continuity of care may also be important. Ultimately, this could
involve ongoing medical, financial, housing, education, employment and
social support systems. All these services may be crucial for recovery—yet
they tend to be very poorly coordinated. Support groups can help you start
putting the pieces of this puzzle together. They can also advocate for better,
more integrated case management for people with psychosis and their
√ Call the Mental Health clinic in your community. Ask about their family education and support programs √ Look for family support organizations in your region √ Join the BC Schizophrenia Society. Call (604) 270-7841 Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know — Getting Treatment
“With early diagnosis, speedy initiation of treatment, careful medication monitoring, regular follow-up, proper education, residential, vocational and rehab support systems in place, long-term outcomes are quite favourable.”

Many families are shocked when they try to find a doctor for a young person
with psychosis. It seems that some doctors have little or no interest in this
area. There is no easy solution to this problem.
First of all—psychosis can resemble other illnesses, so assessment and
treatment must involve well-qualified people. Appropriate assessment,
medical care and prescription medications will all likely be needed. As
prominent psychiatrist Fuller Torrey says, “There is no avoiding the doctor-
finding issue.”
One way to start is to ask someone in the medical profession whom they
would go to if someone in their family showed signs of psychosis. If the young
person is still in school, a high school counsellor may be able to assist with an
appropriate referral. Another way is by talking with other families who have
been through the mental health system. They will often be able to put you in
touch with the best resources in your community, and save you a lot of time
and frustration. Sharing this type of information is one of the most valuable
assets of your local Schizophrenia Society, and is an important reason to join
the organization.

Besides finding someone who is medically competent, you need to find
someone who works well with other members of the treatment team, and will
help both patient and family understand and participate in the treatment plan.
Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know — Psychologists, psychiatric nurses, social workers, case managers, rehab specialists, counsellors and others are all part of the therapeutic process. Doctors who are reluctant to work as team members are not good doctors for treating early psychosis, no matter how skilled they may be in psycho-pharmacology. Specifically, you need to find a doctor who: Believes psychosis must be thoroughly assessed
Takes a detailed history
Screens for problems that may be related to other possible illnesses
Is knowledgeable about antipsychotic medications
Follows up thoroughly
Adjusts the course of treatment when necessary
Reviews medications regularly
Is interested in the patient’s entire welfare, and makes appropriate
referrals for aftercare  psychosocial education, rehab, housing, Explains clearly what is going on
Involves the family in the treatment process
In order to get enough information to make informed decisions, you may have to ask the doctor some direct questions: What do you think causes psychosis? What has been your experience with newer medications? How important is psychotherapy in treating psychosis? What about rehabilitation?
If you are uneasy or lack confidence in the medical advice you receive,
remember—you do have the right to another opinion from other doctors, even
if from another city.


Medication  Patients with psychosis will likely be given medication to
alleviate symptoms. It is not possible to know in advance which medication will work best for an individual. Several medication adjustments may be required. This period of trial and error can be difficult for everyone involved. Some medications may have unpleasant side effects—dry mouth, drowsiness, stiffness, or restlessness. However, the newer generation of medications are generally much better tolerated than the old ones, and are generally used as “first line” treatment for young people. Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know —
Education  Patients, families and friends must learn all they can about
psychosis. They should also be directly included in planning the treatment
. Families should find out what assistance is available in their
community — including day programs, extra help in school, self-help groups,
rehab, work and recreation programs. It is most important for the patient and
the family to understand the facts about psychosis, to have every hope for
recovery, and to learn how best to manage residual symptoms if necessary.
Family Counselling  Since the patient and the family are often under
enormous emotional strain, counselling should be available from professionals who understand the illness. Hospitalization and Regular Follow-up  If a person has an acute episode
of psychosis, they will likely require hospitalization. This allows the patient to be observed, assessed, and, if necessary, started on medication under the supervision of trained staff. The purpose of hospitalization is proper medical care and protection. Once the patient is stabilized and discharged from hospital, regular follow-up care will reduce the chances of relapse. Residential and Rehabilitation Programs  It is very important to have
plans for education, social activities, recreational, vocational and residential
opportunities. Used as part of the treatment plan, they can result in improved
outcomes for everyone.
Self-Help Groups  Families can be very effective in supporting each other
and in advocating for much-needed research, public education, and community-based programs. People who have experienced psychosis can also provide consultation and advocacy in these areas, as well as offering peer support to other individuals who have had psychosis. Nutrition, Rest and Exercise  Recovery from psychosis, as with any
illness, requires patience. It is aided by a well-balanced diet, adequate sleep, and regular exercise. However, side effects from medication may interfere with proper eating, sleeping, and exercise habits. There can be appetite loss, lack of motivation, and withdrawal from normal daily activity. Someone who has been very ill may still forget to eat, or may become suspicious about food, so supervision of daily routines is sometimes required. If you are a family member or friend who is trying to help—be patient. Above all, don’t take seeming carelessness or disinterest personally. Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know — Recovery

Myth: Rehabilitation can be provided only after stabilization.
Reality: Rehabilitation should begin on Day One.

Dr. Courtenay Harding, University of Colorado School of Medicine Some of the most recent and hopeful news in psychosis research is emerging from studies in the field of psychosocial “rehab.” New studies challenge several long-held myths in psychiatry about the inability of people with psychosis to recover. It now appears that such myths, by maintaining an overall pessimism about outcomes, may significantly reduce patients’ opportunities for improvement and/or recovery. After three decades of empirical study, it is now clear that good rehabilitation programs are an important part of treatment strategy. Furthermore, the importance of family input for treatment and the benefits of appropriate relations between clinicians and families are now well established. Families need and want education, information, coping and communication skills, emotional support, and to be treated as collaborators. For this reason, knowledgeable clinicians will make a special effort to solicit involvement of family members. Sometimes a clinician may have to make a special effort to entice the family into collaboration. However, once a relationship is established, clinician, patient and family can work together to identify needs and appropriate interventions. Everyone should be able to have realistic yet optimistic expectations about improvement and possible recovery. Studies show that families and friends who are supportive, non-judgmental, and, most especially, non-critical—can do much to help recovery. On the other hand, patients who are around chaotic or volatile family members usually have a more difficult time. Since we now know this, it is important for those who are close to the ill person to assess their coping skills. They need to know if the ill person has some degree of cognitive impairment. If so, treating professionals need teach them some basic, simple communication techniques and strategies to prevent everyday misunderstandings, frustration and stress. Health professionals should help families try to anticipate and adapt to the ups and downs of the illness. Calm assurance, assistance, and support from family members and others who care can help the individual towards recovery. Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know — FAQ’s —“Frequently Asked Questions”
1. Q. What are my chances of developing psychosis?

A. Approximately 3% of people worldwide will experience an episode of
psychosis in their lifetime; about 1% will develop schizophrenia. Since
schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and clinical depression tend to run in
families, your chances may be higher if someone in your family has one of
these illnesses. For example, the rates for schizophrenia in family
members where relatives have the illness is as follows:
- If one parent or a brother or sister is ill, the risk factor is about 7-9%
- If both your parents are ill, your chances are about 37%
- If a nonidentical twin is ill, your chances are 10-15%
- If an identical twin is ill, your chances are 35-50%
- If your grandparent, aunt or uncle is ill, your chances are about 2-3%
- Schizophrenia does not discriminate between the sexes. Young men and
women are equally at risk for developing the illness.

2. Q.
Can children develop psychosis?
A. Yes. In rare instances, children as young as five have been diagnosed
with psychosis. Most people do not show recognizable symptoms until
adolescence or young adulthood.

3. Q. How can I tell if I have psychosis before it becomes serious?
A. If you think you have symptoms of psychosis, you should talk to a doctor
who has experience treating the illness. This is very important since early
diagnosis and treatment means a better long-term outcome.

4. Q. My friend had an episode of psychosis. How can I help?
A. We all need friends who stick with us through good times and bad.
People who have experienced psychosis will value your friendship. They
may be discriminated against by people who are ignorant about brain
illnesses. Many individuals who develop psychosis have high IQ’s. Unless
someone is experiencing symptoms of psychosis, there will be nothing
especially unusual about their behaviour.
You can help by trying to understand your friend’s experience, and by educating others when the opportunity arises. Let them know the facts. Also, if you can, get to know your friend’s family. They might help you understand how your friend may sometimes be overwhelmed or discouraged because of persistent or recurring symptoms. Once you know Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know — this, you can help by just being supportive and encouraging during these rough times. If you’re planning social activities with your friend, it helps to remember: ▪ People who have experienced psychosis should keep a fairly regular schedule, and get adequate sleep and rest. ▪ Because there may be some residual thought disorder, term papers and studying for exams can’t be left until the last minute ▪ Using street drugs is very dangerous because they can trigger a
5. Q. Do street drugs ever cause psychosis?
A. Yes. Certain street drugs can cause psychosis  but most psychosis is
not drug-induced. People who take street drugs sometimes have psychotic
symptoms, so people who experience psychosis are sometimes accused
of being “high” on drugs. On the other hand, a person with untreated
psychotic symptoms may also become involved in substance abuse,
where having such symptoms in the setting of getting high might be seen
as “normal.”

6. Q. Does a history of psychosis in my family mean there is a
greater risk of having a psychotic episode if I use street drugs?

A. Yes. Evidence indicates that if someone has a predisposing genetic
factor, drugs like cannabis (marijuana, hash, hash oil, etc.) or cocaine may
trigger an episode of psychosis. This may or may not clear up when the
drug use stops. If your family has a history of psychosis, extra caution
would be wise.
Street drugs can be risky for anyone, but for people who have experienced psychosis, they are particularly dangerous. As mentioned earlier, certain drugs can cause relapses and make the illness worse. All street drugs should be avoided, including: ▪ PCP (angel dust) ▪ Cocaine/crack ▪ LSD ▪ Amphetamines ▪ Marijuana and other cannabis products ▪ Ecstasy Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know —
7. Q. What about alcohol, coffee and tobacco?
A. Moderate use of alcohol (one or two glasses of wine or beer)
doesn’t seem to trigger psychotic symptoms, but heavy use certainly
People on medication should be especially careful. Since alcohol is a depressant, it can be life-threatening when combined with medications like tranquilizers (clonazapam, Rivotril, Ativan, Valium, alprazolam, etc.) Each multiplies the effect of the other— often with disastrous results. The following have also been shown to trigger symptoms of psychosis: ▪ Large amounts of nicotine and/or caffeine ▪ Cold medications and nasal decongestants. Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know — Education and Psychosis
“I’m a Teacher—What Can I Do?”

“Professionals . must help people set realistic goals. I would entreat them not to be devastated by our illness and to transmit a hopeless attitude to us. I urge them never to lose hope; for we will not strive if we believe the effort is futile.” — Esso Leete, person who has had schizophrenia for 20 years
1. Arm yourself with the facts
Early onset psychosis is very common. It strikes in the mid to late teens and early twenties. You need to be aware that: • Early intervention and early use of new medications lead to better medical outcomes for the individual • The earlier someone with psychosis is diagnosed and stabilized on treatment, the better the long-term prognosis for their illness • Teen suicide is a growing problem—and teens with psychosis have 2. Bring psychosis into the open
• Discuss the physiology of the brain and the facts about psychosis in • An good educational resource such as Reaching Out: The Importance of Getting Help Early (see pages 35 and 36) helps to dispel myths and reduce the injustice and prejudice associated with the illness. • Provide information on precipitating factors, such as drug abuse.
3. Be alert to early warning signs of psychosis
• Young people are sometimes apathetic, have mood swings, or experience declines in athletic or academic performance. But if these things persist, you should talk to the family and help the student receive an assessment.
The Schizophrenia Society’s “Reaching Out” (2001)
teaching resource helps students learn about brain
function and mental illness. The resource also stresses
the importance of getting help early. See page 36 for

Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know —
4. If you have a student in your class who has a psychosis:
• Learn as much as you can about the illness so you can understand the very real difficulties the person is experiencing • Reduce stress by going slowly when introducing new situations • Help them set realistic goals for academic achievement and extra- • Establish regular meetings with the family for feedback on health and progress. It may be necessary to modify objectives, curriculum content, teaching methodology, evaluation formats, etc. • Encourage other students to be kind and to extend their friendship. Some may wish to act as peer supports if symptoms recur and some catch-up help is needed.
5. Teachers and counsellors can also help raise awareness by:
• Holding information sessions about early psychosis at parents’ • Setting up displays for special occasions (such as Mental Illness Awareness Week) in the school library or counselling office • Ordering up-to-date resource materials for your library, finding current information on the internet, and discarding out-of-date literature. “PARTNERSHIP” EDUCATION
In-class Partnership Education presentations are an invaluable aid for helping students understand the nature and prevalence of mental illness. The Partnership program brings together three individuals who work as a team to present the facts about psychosis. One person has a psychiatric diagnosis, one is a family member, and one is a mental health professional. They come into your classroom together, each to tell their personal story. Partnership Education presentations elicit immediate and thoughtful class participation. Mental illness is demystified. Students’ questions are answered directly by people with first-hand knowledge and experience. The Partnership Education program helps fight ignorance, prejudice, dusty old Hollywood myths, and hurtful stereotypes. It also provides vital facts about the physical nature of psychosis, and helps many individual students whose family members have suffered from mental illness. Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know — Myths and Misconceptions
“One thing I found really hard about my illness was the stigma.  Shawna, a young person who experienced psychosis Society’s knowledge of early psychosis lags way behind the facts.
People with psychosis can be victims of this general ignorance, especially if
they do not receive treatment and education about their illness. Much more
public education and awareness is needed.
What is the biggest problem for people who have experienced

Most say it’s that others hesitate to accept them. Once they recover and no
longer have symptoms, they may still have difficulties with school, friends,
housing, and work. Old friends and even some family members may be
uncomfortable in their presence.
No wonder so many people who have experienced psychosis feel they don’t
belong; that they are “different” that they are not respected or valued. Such
widespread, hurtful ignorance can lead to terrible social isolation and
loneliness. It can become the most disabling feature of psychosis.
Educating patients, families and friends helps give everyone the tools they
need to deal with the illness in a realistic and positive manner. Meanwhile, it is
also vital that we continue to increase public awareness. Knowledge about
the importance of early psychosis intervention is crucial to improving
outcomes and to conquering ignorance.
Better public health education programs can help do away
with old myths and misunderstandings.

Giving young patients the necessary supports to recover
and live with dignity in their communities helps overcome
the old myths and stereotypes.

Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know —
BC Schizophrenia Society (BCSS)
Partnership Education
Partnership presentations consists of a team of three guest speakers
 a person with a psychiatric diagnosis, a family member, and a
mental health professional. Each guest describes their own personal
experience with mental illness. Based on a personal storytelling
model, Partnership education is a unique and powerful tool that
helps people in the community understand the nature and
prevalence of chronic and severe mental illness.
BCSS/NAMI Family-to-Family Education Program
A 12-week course for families of people with severe and persistent
mental illness. It focuses on three major psychiatric illnesses
(schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression), emphasizing
clinical treatment and teaching the knowledge and skills that family
members need to cope more effectively. The course is taught by
trained family members in a team-teaching approach.

Partnership Puppeteer Program

Puppet show for Grade 4/5 students that provides accurate
information and helps dispel myths and misunderstandings about
mental illness. The puppet show is presented by consumers and
family members using brightly coloured puppets. The story, “Brother
Where Are You?” is about a young girl who shares her concerns with
her friends about her brother who has schizophrenia.

BRIDGES is based on the belief that people with mental illness can
recover and find a new and valued sense of self and purpose. Based
on the BCSS/NAMI Family-to-Family education program, BRIDGES
is a 14-week course founded on two principles: (i) learning about
facts; and (ii) learning about feelings. BRIDGES was developed by
more than 100 consumerspeople who shared their personal
experience and knowledge about their illness. It is taught “by consumers for consumers”. Learning from each other helps empower people by providing them with tools to build their own bridges of recovery. Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know — “Kids in Control” Support Group Program
Designed to provide information, education and support to children
eight to thirteen years of age who have a parent with a serious
mental illness. Because these children face unique challenges and
are at risk for social maladjustment and mental illness, they are an
appropriate group for this primary prevention program.

“Reaching Out” The Need For Early Treatment *
High School & Community Video & Resource Kit
This important new tool developed for high schools consists of a
22-minute video, teacher’s guide, lesson plans and student
materials. Heightens awareness among students, their teachers,
counsellors and other “gatekeepers” about the early signs and
symptoms of psychosis, emphasizing the importance of early
intervention and treatment.
“Reaching Out” Physician’s Version *
Early Psychosis Identification for Physicians and Mental Health

12-minute video developed in conjunction with the Department of Psychiatry
at the University of British Columbia for BC’s province-wide Early Psychosis
Initiative (EPI) program.
Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know *
37-page booklet emphasizing the importance of early medical
assessment and treatment to improve outcomes. Includes
information on different types of psychosis, early warning signs,
treatment, rehab, recovery, and how to find timely medical help.
Basic Facts About Schizophrenia
44-page booklet introducing basic information about schizophrenia
 how common the illness is, symptoms, medications, how to find
help, research, myths, plus tips for families, friends and teachers. 1. To order Early Psychosis Education Resources, see page 37 Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know —
201 – 6011 Westminster Hwy
Richmond, B.C. V7C 4V4
Tel (604) 270-7841 Fax (604) 270-9861
E-mail: [email protected] Web site:


Support groups throughout the province for families and friends of people with schizophrenia and other serious mental illness Education Family Education and Partnership programs for increasing public
awareness and understanding about mental illness Advocacy Advocating for improved legislation and better services for people
Research Active fundraising for research into the causes and treatment of
schizophrenia and other serious mental illness
To reach the BCSS branch nearest you, call your Regional Family Coordinator, check your local telephone directory, or contact the BCCS Provincial Office (604) 270-7841 Abbotsford Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know — British Columbia Schizophrenia Society (BCSS)
Family and Program Coordinators
BCSS Regional and Program Coordinators help coordinate services, support and education
for family members of people with first episode psychosis, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder,
depression and other serious brain disorders.

Vancouver/ Richmond

Northwest Region
Burnaby Region
Northern Interior/Cariboo
Simon Fraser Region
Bulkley Valley
South Fraser
Peace Liard North
Julie Kornelsen
Sea to Sky Corridor
Peace Liard South
Sunshine Coast
Children of the Mentally Ill
Powell River and Area
Lin Johnson
BRIDGES Coordinator
Okanagan Region
Thompson Region
Respite Services
Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know — Help for Families Outside British Columbia

Schizophrenia Society of New Brunswick
Toll free 1-800-323-0474 (in Que. only) E-mail: [email protected] NEWFOUNDLAND
Toll Free: 1-800-465-2601 (in N.S. only) IN EUROPE
EUFAMI – Headquartered in Belgium.
Affiliated with 16 mental illness support

NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally
Ill) at 1-800-950-NAMI. Volunteers staff this toll-free Helpline answering questions and providing referrals to local affiliate support groups and information services. Glossary: Understanding the Language of
Mental Illness

If you have a relative, friend, or student with psychosis, you may find medical professionals and others using words you are not familiar with. This is a short glossary of some of the most commonly used terms. Affective Disorders or Mood Disorders
Mental il ness characterized by greatly exaggerated emotional reactions and mood
swings from high elation to deep depression. Commonly used terms are bipolar
(formerly called manic depression) and depression—although some people
experience only mania and others only depression. These extreme mood changes are
unrelated to changes in the person's environment.
A fixed belief that has no basis in reality. People suffering from this type of thought
disorder are often convinced they are famous people, are being persecuted, or are
capable of extraordinary accomplishments.
Classification of a disease by studying its signs and symptoms. Schizophrenia is one of
many possible diagnostic categories used in psychiatry.
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
Used primarily for patients suffering from extreme depression for long periods, who are
suicidal, and who do not respond to medication or to changes in circumstances.
An abnormal experience in perception. Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or feeling
things that are not there.
Involuntary Admission
The process of entering a hospital is called admission. Voluntary admission means the
patient requests treatment, and is free to leave the hospital whenever he or she wishes.
People who are very ill may be admitted to a mental health facility against their will, or
involuntarily. There are two ways this can occur:
• Under medical admission certificate or renewal certificate • Under special court order when the person has been charged or convicted with a criminal offence. In this case, they may be held in a forensic facility. In British Columbia, before someone can be admitted involuntarily, a physician must certify that the person is: • Suffering from a mental disorder and requiring care, protection and medical • Unable to ful y understand and make an informed decision regarding • Likely to cause harm to self or others, or to suffer substantial mental or physical deterioration if not hospitalized. Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know  31
In psychiatry, medication is usually prescribed in either pill or injectable form. Several
different types of medications may be used, depending on the diagnosis. Ask your
doctor or pharmacist to explain the names, dosages, and functions of all medications,
and to separate generic names from brand names in order to reduce confusion.
1) Antipsychotics: Brand Names—Modecate, Largactil, Stelazine, Haldol,
Fluanxol, Pipartil, Clozaril, Risperdal, Zyprexa. Seroquel. Generic Names—
fluphenazine, chlorpromazine, trifluoperazine, haloperidol, flupenthixol,
pipotiazine, clozapine, risperidone, olanzapine, quetiapine. These reduce
agitation, diminish hallucinations and destructive behaviour, and may bring about
some correction of other thought disorders. Side effects include changes in the
central nervous system affecting speech and movement, and reactions affecting
the blood, skin, liver and eyes. Periodic monitoring of blood and liver functions is
2) Antidepressants: Relatively slow-acting drugs—but if no improvement is
experienced after three weeks, they may not be effective at all. Some side
effects may occur, but these are not as severe as side effects of antipsychotics.
3) Mood Normalizers: e.g., Lithium, Carbamazepine, Valproate. Used in manic
and manic-depressive states to help stabilize wide mood swings that are part of
the condition. Regular blood checks are necessary to ensure proper medication
levels. There may be some side effects such as thirst and burning sensations.
4) Tranquilizers: Valium, Librium, Ativan, Xanax, Rivotril. Generally referred to
as Benzodiazepines. These medications can help calm agitation and anxiety.
5) Side Effect Medications: Also called anticholinergics. Brand Names—
Cogentin, Kemadrin. Generic Names—benzotropine, procyclidine.

Mental Health
Describes an appropriate balance between the individual, his or her social group, and
the larger environment. These three components combine to promote psychological
and social harmony, a sense of wel -being, self-actualization, and environmental
Mental Illness/Mental Disorder
Physiological abnormality and/or biochemical irregularity in the brain causing substantial
disorder of thought, mood, perception, orientation, or memory—grossly impairing
judgement, behaviour, capacity to reason, or ability to meet the ordinary demands of

Mental Health Act
Provincial legislation for the medical care and protection of people who have a mental
il ness. The Mental Health Act also ensures the rights of patients who are involuntarily
admitted to hospital, and describes advocacy and review procedures.
A tendency toward unwarranted suspicions of people and situations. People with
paranoia may think others are ridiculing them or plotting against them. Paranoia fal s
within the category of delusional thinking.
Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know —
Hal ucinations, delusions, and loss of contact with reality.
Severe and sometimes chronic brain disease. Common symptoms—personality
changes, withdrawal, severe thought and speech disturbances, hallucinations,
delusions, bizarre behaviour.
Side Effects
Side effects occur when there is drug reaction that goes beyond or is unrelated to the
drug’s therapeutic effect. Some side effects are tolerable, but some are so disturbing
that the medication must be stopped. Less severe side effects include dry mouth,
restlessness, stiffness, and constipation. More severe side effects include blurred
vision, excess salivation, body tremors, nervousness, sleeplessness, tardive dyskinesia,
and blood disorders.
Some drugs are available to control side effects. Learning to recognize side effects is
important because they are sometimes confused with symptoms of the illness. A
doctor, pharmacist, or mental health professional can explain the difference between
symptoms of the il ness and side effects due to medication.
Refers to remedies or therapies designed to cure an illness or relieve symptoms. In
psychiatry, treatment is often a combination of medication, education about the illness,
counselling (advice), and recommended activities. Together, these make up the
individual patient’s treatment plan.
Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know — THE MENTAL HEALTH ACT = THE RIGHT TO TREATMENT AND CARE • Due to a chemical imbalance that affects the brain, many people who become acutely ill with psychosis are unable to recognize their illness. That means they are unable to voluntarily exercise their right to available treatment—because of the very nature of their disability. The British Columbia Mental Health Act is about the care and protection of our citizens who are suffering from such illnesses. • Early treatment and stabilization on medication greatly improves the hope of recovery for people with psychosis. Many people can now, with timely and adequate treatment and support, recover and live satisfactory lives in the community. • Involuntary hospitalization of people who are too ill to care for themselves should never be falsely equated with incarceration in the criminal justice system. To do so not only adds to prejudice about people with mental illness—it also deprives them of their fundamental right to proper medical treatment and care. Unfortunately, such confusion is common. As a result, there are many people with severe and chronic brain diseases such as schizophrenia who have “fallen through the cracks” of the system and are abandoned, because they are not well enough to seek treatment for themselves. • It is a scandal that people who are ill should literally die in our streets from neglect when effective treatment is available. Furthermore, suicide rates among this population are alarmingly high. For example, 50% of all young people with psychosis will attempt suicide—and 10 to 13% will succeed. • Family members may sometimes have to be politely persistent in advocating for the essential right to treatment for their ill relative under the Mental Health Act. Understanding that their loved one’s health and future are at stake can make all the difference.
The purpose of the BC Mental Health Act is to help people who
require medical treatment receive the help they need and deserve so
that they can regain their health.

Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know — EARLY PSYCHOSIS
Reaching Out The Importance of Early Treatment
“Outstanding educational resource to teach senior high school students about
mental illness.” Connie Easton, Vice President – BC School Counsellors Association
“Accurate information, good emphasis on early treatment  useful to professionals dealing with young people.” Dr. Bill MacEwan, Medical Director Early Psychosis Intervention Program

High School Curriculum Resource Kit
This important new tool consists of • 22-minute video • Teacher/ Facilitator’s Guide • Lesson Plans, Overheads • Student Materials The “Reaching Out” resource is designed to heighten awareness of the early signs and symptoms of psychosis, and the importance of early intervention and treatment. A complete, stand-alone resource that can be used by instructors who have little or no previous knowledge of schizophrenia or other serious mental illnesses. Cost $150.00
“Reaching Out” Video 22 minutes
Video emphasizes the importance of getting help early for someone showing early psychosis symptoms. Dramatic storyline intercut with interviews of people with schizophrenia talking about their illness. (This video is included in complete “Reaching Out” curriculum resource kit, above.) Cost $ 25.00
“Reaching Out” Video 12 minutes
Early Psychosis Identification for Physicians and Mental Health Professionals. Developed by the BC Schizophrenia Society in conjunction with the University of British Columbia’s Department of Psychiatry to help enhance clinical skills. People with schizophrenia talk about their personal experience; commentary by five noted psychiatrists. • Booklet - Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know
36-page detailed booklet includes information on different types of psychosis, early warning signs, treatment, how to find appropriate medical help, education, rehab and recovery. Cost $3.50 Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know — RESOURCE/VIDEO ORDER FORM
“Reaching Out: The Importance of Early Treatment”
(Order prices include all taxes, shipping & handling)
“Reaching Out” Complete Curriculum Resource Kit
(Includes 22-minute video, with 80-page instructor’s guide)
_____ = $__________

“Reaching Out” 22-minute Video only
“Reaching Out” 12-minute Video, Physicians’ Version
$ 20.00

Booklet - Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know Cost
$ 3.50
_ __________

CREDIT CARD: VISA MasterCard Expires___________
Credit Card #______________________________________________
Credit card orders may be faxed to (604) 270-9861
Cheques are payable to BC Schizophrenia Society
Mail to : BCSS Provincial Office

Richmond, BC V7C 4V4 (Canada)
Early Psychosis: What Families and Friends Need to Know —


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