This is a list based on experience from both sides of the issue of Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder on things to do and not do when trying to help or befriend those who have been diagnosed as such. Hopefully, you will find it helpful. Take what may be useful and feel free to discard what may not be. If you have things to add, please leave a comment, as I don’t claim to have the monopoly of truth on this.
These are also things that can be helpful in any relationship where there are other mental afflictions.
Things not to do:
1. Don’t be quick to assume it is always the devil. There isn’t anything worse than having Church people looking at you as if all you need is a touch from them or their pastor.
2. Don’t be quick to think you can just lay hands on someone and “cast the demons out.” Not that it can’t be done in some cases, but you better make sure God has called you and not of yourself. Remember, just because someone is diagnosed or labeled something, does not mean they are going to allow everyone who comes along to lay hands on them. It does not mean they are possessed if they don’t want you to. Just because someone may be a little quirky, does not mean they themselves have no discernment on the type of person you may be.
3. If you aren’t willing to be a friend, then don’t bother at all. One thing a lot of schizophrenics are able to perceive, is who is sincere or not.
4. Do not and I mean never, put your friend in some kind of category all by themselves. Just because they may be a little different does not mean they aren’t any better than any other friends you have. I know of one woman who loved putting one of her friends in the category of “my F—ed up friend.” If I have to tell you what is wrong with that, then you have no business trying to be a friend to anyone.
5. Try not to become confused or angry if the person becomes paranoid. Remember, they may not be able to even express what is going on in them. But if you give them time, and if they trust you, more than likely they will.
6. Don’t see yourself as some kind of savior. People need to see God as their help, learning to hear His voice. Not yours.
7. Do not allow yourself to be used in such a way that you become a doormat. Example: Everything is about them all the time, while they care nothing about your needs. I’ve been on both sides of this and it is not good. A person will dump and dump and dump on you, not listening to anything you have to say, leaving you feeling like a cow bird just flew over and dumped a big poopie on you! No one is obligated to put up with that kind of selfishness. It enables people instead of helping them learn the world does not revolve around them.
8. Do not talk down to them. Some people find this sickening and will run from you. On the other hand, you may have those who want to be talked down to because they like to be babied. In which case, don’t do it, because it enables people and you have just set yourself on a pedestal. See number 6 above.
9. Do not put unreasonable expectations upon them. Just because you like something, does not mean someone else does or even obligated to.
10. If a person is on prescription medicine for their malady, do not take it upon yourself to tell the person to show their faith by coming off of them. I do not care if you are a pastor, preacher, or in a deliverance ministry. That is not your call. Many times, a person may have been on meds for years. To suddenly come off may be dangerous, both physically and mentally. For you to say you have faith is beside the point. It is not something you are going to have to live with.
Things to do:
1. Love them. If this can not be your top priority, then do yourself and the other person a favor, by moving on.
2. Be willing to hang in there with them for the long haul. Course if someone’s behavior is so obviously nuts that you have found them a danger to yourself or others, I do not believe for one second you are obligated in any way. But that’s your choice.
3. Pray for them in such a way to always see and know the truth.
4. If they let you, put your arm around them. Sometimes, people just need an arm around them with no spoken words. One would be surprised at how that alone can have healing effects. But don’t force it. Your touch may not feel quite right and let that be ok. Don’t take it personal.
5. Listen to them. If they need to get something off their chest, let them. Even if it makes no sense for the time.
6. Speak the truth always.
7. Find something fun to do together.
8. Find something to laugh at together.
9. Ask if you can read Scripture together. If they don’t want to, don’t force it. You can still read scripture on your own.
10. Do not be afraid to interject your own thoughts in a discussion. It’s more than ok. Sometimes the person who has certain issues tend to hog a conversation. It’s ok to say, “Ok, I have listened to you now for 20 minutes. My turn now.” In fact, do it. It makes the other person responsible for listening just like anybody else. If you don’t do this, it will be a one way street of communication and you will find yourself resenting the person. The point is normalcy.
11. Know the difference between an excuse and a reason. Do not be quick to judge either one, as you are not in their shoes. If you have found yourself in a place where you must judge, then let your judgment be one of love, truth, fairness and righteousness. Anything short of that will lead to condemnation, more chains, more yokes.
12. Ask if you can pray with them. If they don’t want to, don’t force it. You can still pray on your own.
13. Ask them if they truly want the truth. Many people say they do, but in reality they don’t. If they don’t, then you have to look at the fact that they may be playing you. Know also, just because they may not be willing to cling to your truth, does not mean they aren’t interested in the truth. You will have to know the difference.
14. Require honesty. I can’t stress how important this is. If you find someone is just playing games, then either hold them accountable or move on. Find another outlet for your empathy and understanding until they are ready to be real with you.
15. If your friend is wanting to try and come off any medicine, tell them to seek the doctor first. Are there times when a person may be called off of them with out the ok of a doctor? Absolutely. But again, that is not your call. If they do come off, make yourself available at anytime. This may mean phone calls in the middle of the night. If behavior warrants being on medication, then speak up.
16. Realize there are doctors out there who prescribe drugs in such a way to keep people in bondage to them. I say this because I know of people (not schizophrenics, but others) who are on so many prescription drugs, they literally are like little zombies. Why some body needs high dosages of Klonopin (an anti-seizure med) night after night to help them sleep, while taking Xanax through the day, is beyond me. But what do I know?
17. Realize as much as you try, there still may be those for whatever reasons, who want to keep their issues alive and going full throttle. They thrive off drama and have been deceived in loving their darkness. Some people just do not want to be functional and or whole. Unless you like being part of that, you will more than likely move on. You may have to learn to be ok with that.
18. Do realize that it you treat the person as if they are beneath you by talking down to them, instead of treating them as an equal, they will probably end up resenting you. Wouldn’t you, if someone did that to you?
19. Do know that if you mock your friend, they will likely have little to do with you and never trust you.
20. Also remember there may be those who will require medication for whatever reasons. As much as you would like to see them do without, you will have to trust God and accept it as it is and pray what your role is, if any, and how it is to play out.
Part 3 will deal with the Schizophrenic’s responsibility.