Treatment for schizophrenia focuses on reducing symptoms and optimising a person’s functioning. Medication, stress management, education and information are integral in improving the treatment of schizophrenia.
There is no reason why a person with schizophrenia could not be working and functioning as a member of the community. That is of course, once the acute symptoms have been treated successfully.
There are several ways to optimise the treatment of this disease. The role of family members and other loved ones should not be underestimated in improving the patient’s quality of life and the outcome of the treatment.
Role of psycho-education
As soon as the patient has responded to medication and the abnormal thoughts are under control, it’s important to start psycho-education.
The goal of psycho-education is to fully inform the patient and his or her family members about the disease and all other aspects of treatment. This information is essential for a patient to understand why he or she needs the medication and that it will have to be taken for life.
Topics that should be addressed during psycho-education include:
• recognising schizophrenia symptoms early
• preventing prevention of recurrence of the psychotic episodes
• highlighting the role of medication and side effects.
If patients are not adequately informed about potential side effects, they may stop using the medication without consulting a psychiatrist for advice.
Unfortunately people suffering from schizophrenia often have poor insight into their own condition and may believe they are not ill and do not need to take medication. Discontinuation of medication is one of the most common reasons for relapse and reappearance of symptoms.
Relatives need to be well informed about the disease to improve compliance to treatment. In this way, they will understand the patient better and therefore be able and willing to help in the patient’s long-term encouragement and treatment. Family education remains one of the most effective therapies in improving long-term outcome and quality of life of people with schizophrenia.
Psychiatrist in private practice, Cape Town. March 2015.