Step 1 — Keep Everyone Safe

The importance of keeping everyone in the household safe cannot be overstated. However, sometimes it is overlooked or not approached carefully. The vast majority of people with schizophrenia are not violent. There are over two million of us living in the United States and Canada and we aren’t coming out in droves, maiming, torturing and killing people. The media chooses to cover those of us who commit heinous crimes; however, the truth is quite the opposite.

Most people with schizophrenia eschew intimate contact, so confrontation isn’t our strong suit unless we feel cornered. At that point, some of us can get unpredictable. We may turn silently inward or lash out with verbal outbursts. Very few of us resort to violence. [As an aside, one of my former clinical psychologists once said to me: “Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. And, although this is true, past behavior isn’t always an accurate predictor [of future behavior].”

I agree, past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior; however, the environment can exacerbate the afflicted person’s symptoms, and this can be a wildcard that leads to behaviors that are not “normal” for the person who exhibits symptoms of schizophrenia. I hope this blog series helps by keeping your loved one’s behaviors predictable and safe with the end result being that he or she and the family get the help you need.

What can you do to keep everyone as safe as possible? Here are some pointers:

  1. Hide or lock up all weapons, including sharp knives. If you have handguns in the house, keep the guns and the ammunition in separate, LOCKED security boxes. Preferably, you will remove them from your home; however, if you choose to keep them, lock them up.
  2. Remove illicit drugs from your home. These can be harmful to your loved one.
  3. If you are afraid your loved one will overdose, take her prescription medications. These can be doled out until your loved one is no longer in danger.
  4. Take all threats seriously, including suicide. If your loved one threatens you or if someone threatens your loved one, take those threats seriously. The absence of threats is a good sign. The presence of threats could be a precursor to more dangerous behaviors.
  5. If the person’s voices are telling him to hurt someone, take that seriously, too.
  6. Do not push your loved one to do something that he is not ready to do, like getting help. This may sound counter-intuitive; however, this will give you the best chance of maintaining a peaceful household. Getting your loved one to accept help is usually more difficult than simply suggesting (or demanding) that he get help.
  7. Remain as calm as possible, especially during the most turbulent times.
  8. Nutrition is a physical safety need. Everyone needs to eat and drink. People in the throes of schizophrenia are no different. Sometimes, your loved one may not feel like joining the family for supper or may lack the ability to make a meal. Don’t make a big deal out of either of these things. Some good ideas might be to keep some microwave dinners in the freezer or make a plate of food from the evening’s meal so that your loved one can heat that up later.
  9. OFFER to go on a walk with your loved one or to play a simple game or to work on a crossword puzzle together or just to sit and watch TV together. Spending nonjudgmental time with the person does wonders for keeping the peace, both in the present and in the future.
  10. Your loved one is fighting a very serious disorder. She may appear lazy or selfish, but on the inside, there is a battle being waged. Keeping everyone safe, including your loved one who is fighting this battle, means remembering that and reminding yourself that she is going through hell.

These are just some pointers. This list is far from comprehensive. If you have some ideas, perhaps you wouldn’t mind sharing those.

This is the foundation for the other steps in getting your loved one to accept help. If you are able to follow this step and keep it up consistently, then your chances of being successful at the other steps will increase measurably.





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