World Schizophrenia Day is an important day held on 24 May to create awareness and understanding of this common psychotic condition that affects approximately 1 in 100 Australians.
Schizophrenia is a mental health issue where the affected person experiences psychotic episodes and an altered perception of reality that can last a short time or for a few months, with symptoms including:
- disorganised behaviour and/or speech
- diminished emotional expression
- lack of motivation
- social disconnection
- confusion and/or delusional thoughts.
These symptoms can impact the person’s mood, motivation and ability to connect with others around them, therefore affecting their quality of life.
It is possible for people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia to lead a full and enjoyable life. If you or someone you know is living with schizophrenia, the following practical tools and lifestyle changes can be great ways to support recovery, in addition to treatments recommended by a medical professional:
1. Reducing stress
Heightened stress can trigger the onset of psychosis for people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Taking steps to manage stress daily is an important way to support recovery. This can include making sure you get enough sleep, practicing mindfulness and making time for things that bring you joy.
2. Avoiding drugs and alcohol
While drugs and alcohol generally have a negative effect on mental health, people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia are more vulnerable to substance abuse. Self-medicating with drugs and alcohol can worsen symptoms of schizophrenia and trigger episodes of psychosis. It can also be dangerous to mix prescription medication with drugs and alcohol. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to avoid drugs and alcohol.
3. Take up a creative practice
Creative activities such as music, art and dance can help to process and express feelings and emotions. Some people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia find these practices help them manage the side-effects of medication and act as a distraction from their symptoms. The social connection gained from taking part in a creative class is also beneficial as it reduces isolation, which is common for people with schizophrenia to experience.
It is well known that physical movement has many benefits for both physical and mental health. Studies have shown that exercise can help people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia to improve cognitive function and memory, and mitigate the physical side effects of medication such as weight gain.
5. Engage with animals
Studies have shown that engaging with animals through animal assisted therapy or pet ownership can have a positive effect on people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Animal assisted therapy can help participants manage emotions such as anxiety or aggression, and increase empathy.
It is equally important that anyone supporting a person diagnosed with schizophrenia practices good self-care and seeks support when they need it. Support is available via:
Mental Health Carers Australia
1800 811 747
1800 422 737
People with a diagnosis of schizophrenia may be eligible for support through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). To find out more about NDIS Support and Open Minds individualised NDIS Psychosocial Disability Supports, please visit our website.