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Should I encourage my relative to spend time with friends and family, and how do I do that?

Dr Juliana Onwumere: Having a relative who doesn’t want to see anyone, or doesn’t want to speak to someone, is and can be very upsetting, and quite distressing for a family member to witness that, certainly if you are living very closely with your relative.

And I guess, as a first step, it's important to recognise that that can be for a variety of reasons. For some people, it might be related to some of the distressing symptoms that they have that make it very difficult to be around people. But also, it can be very much a way of trying to cope with some of the difficulties that they have. So actually, I might spend my time in my room while the rest of my family members are downstairs, or I might be up in the night while the rest of my family members are asleep, and that can often be quite a common picture.

I think one of the important things is trying to understand, or trying to learn more from your relative about what those difficulties might be, and again that may be something where you might be able to ask your relative about their difficulties and they might feel able to tell you, and equally you might be able to work closely with your relative’s mental heath team.

It is important to remember that you can’t force people to be with other people, even though we would very much perhaps see the benefits of that.

So it’s just trying to think very closely with your relative about what might be helpful. For some people with psychosis, actually not necessarily being in a big group... being in a big group is the harder thing. Maybe being with one or two people that they feel familiar with and that they feel more relaxed with, can be helpful. I would really ask and really encourage you to take your lead from your relative, and they would be able to advise you on what feels ok.

Certainly my experience with many families and carers is it can feel very frustrating because you want people, and you would like your relative, to have some company because you think company will make them feel better. But it is important to recognise that for some people with psychosis, actually spending time by themselves might be a way that they use to cope with some of the difficulties that they are having.



This page was last updated 19 April 2013
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PLEASE NOTE: Since these films were made, the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London has become the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (from 1 September 2014).