Monday, August 24, 2009

How Can I Support Someone with Persecution Delusions

Recently, a reader asked how to support, or what to say to someone who has persecutory delusions and confides in them. I thought this question was profound. By investigating this question it could help so many people maintain or develop a trusting relationship with their relative, friend, or client, etc. I asked the opinion of my therapist, and she gave some pointers and asked me to remember a time when I was psychotic and what could someone have said to me to make me feel more comfortable...

When I was at my peak of psychosis everything was a sign from God- that truck making a U-turn meant go back, that taxi cab driver telling me to stay out of trouble meant he was in on it too. While I was psychotic I heard conflicting voices. When I would ask someone a question on the phone the voices would give different information. I was extremely paranoid. And almost everyone was a threat. I couldn't confide in relatives because they would tell my secrets, I couldn't trust friends because they wouldn't believe me. I couldn't keep a journal because someone would find it and read it. I was mentally trapped. I remember trying to escape from family, for reasons that I cannot make sense out of, but the belief was that they were after me, and I was scared.

Wondering about the city I spotted a man with a bike, (I thought to myself I could take his bike and escape from everyone), I asked this man questions about his bike. It was early in the morning and I wore a short sleeve top, he asked me if I was cold and gave me his sweater. I took the sweater then eye-balled his newspaper, I was anxious to know what day it was. He asked me if I wanted it and I said no (I don't know why I didn't take the newspaper). By this time I re-evaluated taking his bike, (this man must be an angel- he gave me his sweater because he knew I was cold, and offered his newspaper when I really wanted it, to know the date). We talked about nothing, I asked him random questions like if he was married with children. He told me he was divorced. I asked why didn't he have children, and he replied because his wife was on birth control. I felt at peace with this man. Finally, I told him I had to go and went my separate way.

If he had known I was psychotic and offered support I would have wanted him to say what my therapist suggested: "What can I do to let you feel more safe?" My therapist also suggested that an individual ask the person experiencing psychosis if there was another explanation for their situation, such as why the FBI would be following them or why their family or anyone would try to harm them.

It is important to show empathy by telling the person with psychosis that "I understand you feel like everyone is after you (or whatever the scenario)..." DO NOT PROMISE to keep information confidential because if that individual who confides in you is a danger to them self or to others I would strongly recommend that you contact a professional ASAP.

My therapist also said to try to maintain neutral facial expressions and tone of voice to not come off as threatening. The man that spoke to me was very kind, warm, and concerned for my well being. Also, do not encourage the delusions. Instead, remind them that it must be scary for whatever they are experiencing, but just show your concern for them and how you are there to support them.

I hope this post gave you some insight into how someone feels when psychosis takes over and what you can do to support them. I appreciate you for reading my posts and would love to hear from you- whether it be a question, comment, or simple "hello".

If you would like to learn more information about schizophrenia visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Horror Movie Sends False Message of Mental Illness

I saw the movie Orphan last night with an old friend, the movie was good, however, it links mental issues to violence which is not okay. I am not going to say too much about the movie for those of you who are interested in viewing the movie, but that the little girl had a history of violence and mental issues. The message the movie made was that people with mental health issues are extremely violent.

This is what puts fear in our neighbors, coworkers, friends, etc. For instance, a while ago an associate from the neighborhood was commenting that he and his daughter do not associate with their neighbor because he has schizophrenia. When I heard this I wanted to jump out and tell him my mental health status to prove that people with schizophrenia are friendly and upright individuals because I am not weird or violent.

Why can't the girl just be a violent person and drop the whole mental illness scenario excuse? Nowadays, people are snapping on people and committing murders because they lost their job, their partner was cheating, lied to them, or simply didn't get what they wanted or expected. The girl could have grew up in an abusive home and was acting out what she saw. The movie did not label a specific mental illness, (thank God!) but said the girl was a patient of a mental hospital.

Besides that concern, I enjoyed spending time with my friend from my old school. I had not seen him in three years. We enjoyed each other's company and plan on going out again sometime.

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