First aid for Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a mental health illness affecting 1 in 100 people. It is due to excess of a brain hormone called dopamine. The cause is still being investigated but researchers believe that it may be related to a combination of factors such as genes and the environment.
Patients with Schizophrenia can perceive the world in a different way to us. For example, a red stop sign to them could be a sign from God. They may hear voices that we cannot, and those voices may be commanding, leading them to perform actions.
These individuals are unable to appreciate that these voices aren’t real and therefore can put themselves into danger trying to follow commands.
The condition also effects emotion so patients may be emotionally blunted or don’t appear to show the normal facial expressions when having conversations. They may appear very happy when they’re told bad news.
Patients with Schizophrenia have to take powerful and unpleasant anti-psychotic medication to keep them well. If for some reason medication is missed this could lead to an ‘acute crisis’ where as mentioned above, they may begin to hear voices.
First aid action plan for Schizophrenia
So here are some talking first aid tips to help when assisting someone having an ‘acute crisis’:
- Caution – As with any first aid scene, approach with caution. Despite the media’s portrayal, patients with Schizophrenia are rarely violent but it is still best practice to be mindful that these patient can be un predicitable – remember they may be perceiving an entirely different world to the one we are. If you are unsure, stay back.
- Introduce yourself – Identify yourself to them (as you would any casualty), if someone is going through a crisis, you need to identify yourself as someone who is there to help them.
- Call for help – This is not something you can deal with alone. They need professional help.
- Keep calm – These individuals may be very frightened if they are experiencing a relapse.
- Talk – Ask them how they are and what is going on. Avoid telling them ‘they’re hearing things’ or that the ‘voices don’t exist’, to them they are just as real as you or I.
- Keep them safe – Even if you are unable to approach them, or they don’t seem to be listening, ensure that the environment they are is safe so they are not at risk of hurting themselves accidentally.
Break the stigma
Well patients with Schizophrenia can live a normal life. Sadly it’s society that often singles them out and isolates them as a result of a poor portrayal by the media.
Treating a patient who suffers from Schizophrenia who is not going through an acute crisis is exactly the same as treating someone without the illness and we should talk to them exactly the same way as we would with any other casualty.