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How to Support a Friend with Schizophrenia

Blonde woman sits at a table having a serious discussion about mental health with a friend sitting opposite her

It can be difficult to know how to support a loved one suffering from schizophrenia. Whether it’s a new diagnosis or a years-long experience, these tips can help you better understand your friend and give them the support they need and deserve.

How Schizophrenia and Friendship Interact

Schizophrenia is often misunderstood, leading to stigma and misconceptions. This condition affects a person’s thinking, feelings, and behavior, and its symptoms can be distressing and disorienting.

Individuals suffering from this disorder may also suffer from co-occurring disorders like depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses. These conditions may make it harder for people to reach out and connect with others.

People with schizophrenia also tend to isolate more because they worry about the effect their psychosis will have on their relationships. They may worry that their condition will “scare” others away or make them feel uncomfortable.

Witnessing a friend going through such experiences can be confusing and painful. While this illness has the capacity to strain relationships, it doesn’t have to. With the right approach, friendship can become an invaluable source of support.

How to Communicate with Someone with Schizophrenia

The best way to talk to a friend with schizophrenia is to listen without judgment, even if their experiences don’t reflect your reality. Avoid arguing over what they’re telling you. Instead, be empathetic about what they’re experiencing, whether that’s fear, frustration, or confusion​​.

For example, if your loved one describes a voice they’re hearing, you might say, “I can’t imagine how scary that voice must be. I can tell it really upsets you.”

It can also help to educate yourself on how symptoms of Schizophrenia, like hallucinations or delusions, alter your friend’s perception of reality. Remember—Schizophrenia can be exhausting. While your friend may be open to talking one day, they may need space and rest the next. Respect their boundaries and don’t push them to share if they’re not ready.

How to Support Someone with Schizophrenia

Supporting a friend with schizophrenia involves a balance of empathy, practical help, and self-care.


Listening is a powerful tool in helping your friend navigate their unique challenges. Schizophrenia can bring on a whirlwind of thoughts, emotions, and voices that others may not understand. By genuinely listening, you offer them a safe space to share their feelings and experiences.

Your attention and empathy can also provide comfort and help build trust. It shows that you care and respect their journey. Remember, you don’t need to have all the answers—sometimes, just being that supportive friend can make all the difference in their world.

Ask How You Can Help

Directly ask your friend how you can be supportive. This might involve helping with daily tasks, accompanying them to appointments, or just being there to listen​​.

Communicate openly with your friend about their needs and preferences. Each person’s experience with schizophrenia is unique, and what helps one person may not be beneficial for another. Also, be prepared to respect their boundaries if they’re not ready to accept help right away. You can always ask again later.

Feelings Over Experiences

Focus on your friend’s feelings rather than trying to discuss the reality of their experiences. Acknowledge the fear or distress they might be feeling without invalidating their experiences

When your friend shares their experiences with you, acknowledge their feelings rather than insisting on what’s “true” or “factual.” For instance, if they share a delusional thought with you, don’t dismiss it as untrue. Instead, acknowledge the fear or distress they might be feeling. This approach validates their emotions and helps them feel heard and supported.

Plan For Emergencies

Work with your friend to create a plan for times of crisis. This might involve knowing their triggers, symptoms to watch for, and steps to take if they’re experiencing a psychotic episode​.

You’ll also want to have a list of emergency contacts (like their therapist or psychiatrist), and know which steps to take in various scenarios. Having a plan in place can provide a sense of security and preparedness for both of you.

Pay Attention to the Positive

Amidst the challenges of schizophrenia, it’s crucial to celebrate your friend’s positive aspects and achievements, no matter how small they may seem.

This could be as simple as acknowledging their progress on a hobby or praising them for adhering to their treatment plan. Focusing on the positives can boost your friend’s morale and encourage them to keep up with their progress.

Research Schizophrenia

The more you know about schizophrenia, the better equipped you’ll be to offer support. Educate yourself about its symptoms, treatment options, and coping strategies.

Learning about schizophrenia can also demystify many aspects of the condition and help you empathize with your friend’s experiences.

Update Your Social Network

With your friend’s permission, it can be helpful to inform close friends or family members about the condition and how they can provide support. Dispelling myths and promoting understanding can foster a social support network around your friend, in turn reducing stigma and isolation.

Encourage Schizophrenia Treatment

Encourage your friend to adhere to their treatment plan and maintain open communication with their healthcare team. You can also offer to help with practical aspects, like reminding them of appointments or providing transportation. However, remember that the decision to seek and follow treatment is ultimately up to your friend, and it’s crucial to respect their choices

Don’t Take It Personally

Schizophrenia can cause changes in behavior and emotion. Remember, these are symptoms of the illness, not reflections of your friendship​.

People with schizophrenia experience changes in behavior and emotion that are often beyond their control. If they act in ways that are hurtful or difficult to understand, it’s important to remember that these actions are symptoms of their condition and not reflective of your relationship or their feelings towards you.

Take Care of Yourself, Too

Supporting someone with schizophrenia can be emotionally demanding. Make sure to take care of your own mental and physical health, and seek support if you need it​​. Balancing your well-being with the support you provide is crucial for sustaining the relationship in the long term.

When to Seek Help For Schizophrenia

It’s crucial to know when to seek professional help. If your friend is in danger of harming themselves or others, or if they’re experiencing severe symptoms, it’s time to seek help. This might involve contacting their healthcare provider, a mental health crisis service, or in extreme cases, emergency services.

Supporting a friend with schizophrenia is a journey that requires patience, understanding, and empathy. By educating yourself, listening actively, and offering practical support, you can make a significant difference in your friend’s life. Remember to take care of yourself as well, so you can be the best support for your friend.

Learn to Live Independently Again at Options Residential

If you or someone you love is struggling to live independently because of schizophrenia, the compassionate team at Options Residential is here to help.

We offer customized living solutions that support individuals suffering from a wide range of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. Our approach helps individuals regain the skills they need to live independently with confidence and peace of mind.

Reach out today to learn more about our supportive housing in Dakota County.

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