Category Archives: Parent, Sibling and Friend Resources

For more information on psychosis and how to get help, please visit www.earlypsychosis.ca.

Early or Warning Signs of Psychosis

If you have concerns about a young person who may be experiencing psychosis, please contact the early psychosis intervention (EPI) service for your health region.  These clinics can normally be contacted directly, without a referral from a doctor.

(This resource from Vancouver/Richmond EPI Early Psychosis Intervention service)

The following symptoms may indicate that an individual is experiencing psychosis or is in the prodromal phase. Frequently, individuals will display unusual behaviours prior to the onset of the acute psychotic episode. It is useful to educate individuals with psychosis about these symptoms once they’ve recovered from the episode, and to help them identify which symptoms are their personal “warning signs” of relapse.

Behavioural

  • Strange posturing
  • Odd or bizarre behaviour
  • Feeling refreshed after much less sleep than normal
  • Excessive writing without meaning
  • Cutting oneself; threats of self-mutilation
  • Deterioration of personal hygiene
  • Hyperactivity or inactivity, or alternating between the two
  • Staring without blinking – or blinking incessantly
  • Agitation
  • Severe sleep disturbances
  • Drug or alcohol abuse (This may be a coping mechanism: self-medicating)

Thinking and Speech

  • Things around them seem changed in some way
  • Rapid speech that is difficult to interrupt
  • Irrational statements
  • Extreme preoccupation with religion or with the occult
  • Peculiar use of words or odd language structures
  • Unusual sensitivity to stimuli (noise, light, colours, textures)
  • Memory problems
  • Severe distractibility

Social

  • Sensitivity and irritability when touched by others
  • Refusal to touch persons or objects; wearing gloves, etc.
  • Severe deterioration of social relationships
  • Dropping out of activities – or out of life in general
  • Social withdrawal, isolation, and reclusive
  • Unexpected aggression
  • Suspiciousness

Emotional

  • Inappropriate laughter
  • Inability to cry, or excessive crying
  • Feelings of depression and anxiety
  • Inability to express joy
  • Euphoric mood

Personality

  • Reckless behaviours that are out of character
  • Significantly prolonged drops in motivation or speech
  • Shift in basic personality.

For Teachers: How to identify and refer students with psychosis, a medical condition of the brain

Printable version of this resource: Teacher Fact Sheet – pdf We invite you to print and distribute this fact sheet to your colleages.

What’s the most important thing for teachers of youth to know about psychosis?

All young people who may be experiencing psychosis need to be assessed by a doctor or mental health team as soon as possible. Youth 16-30 are at the age when psychosis normally first appears, and rapid medical treatment has been shown to have a big effect on how quickly and thoroughly people recover.

What signs should I watch out for? How do I know a student may be experiencing psychosis? (excerpted from Vancouver/Richmond Early Psychosis Program with permission)

The following symptoms may indicate that an individual is experiencing psychosis. Frequently, people will display unusual behaviours before the onset of the acute psychotic episode.

Social

  • Sensitivity and irritability when touched by others
  • Refusal to touch persons or objects; wearing gloves, etc.
  • Severe deterioration of social relationships
  • Dropping out of activities – or out of life in general
  • Social withdrawal, isolation, and reclusive
  • Unexpected aggression
  • Suspiciousness
  • Behavioural
  • Strange posturing
  • Odd or bizarre behaviour
  • Feeling refreshed after much less sleep than normal
  • Excessive writing without meaning
  • Cutting oneself; threats of self-mutilation
  • Deterioration of personal hygiene
  • Hyperactivity or inactivity, or alternating between the two
  • Staring without blinking – or blinking incessantly
  • Agitation
  • Severe sleep disturbances
  • Drug or alcohol abuse (This may be a coping mechanism: self-medicating)

Thinking and Speech

  • Things around them seem changed in some way
  • Rapid speech that is difficult to interrupt
  • Irrational statements
  • Extreme preoccupation with religion or with the occult
  • Peculiar use of words or odd language structures
  • Unusual sensitivity to stimuli (noise, light, colours, textures)
  • Memory problems
  • Severe distractibility
  • Emotional
  • Inappropriate laughter
  • Inability to cry, or excessive crying
  • Feelings of depression and anxiety
  • Inability to express joy
  • Euphoric mood

Personality

  • Reckless behaviours that are out of character
  • Significantly prolonged drops in motivation or speech
  • Shift in basic personality.

How can I help students get appropriate medical help? Who do I refer students with suspected psychosis to?

Important note: The latest research is clear that the sooner a youth with psychosis gets effective medical treatment the faster and more completely they recover. Because delays in treatment have such a big impact, it is critically important to refer  youth to specialized early psychosis intervention team wherever possible, which will see them without delay and will be aware of the most effective treatments. This is preferable to referring them to their family doctor or a mental health team.

  1. Call 811 (no area code needed) and ask for the number for an early psychosis intervention (EPI) team in your community. You, the young person, or their family will be able to call them without a referral. Here is a link to a list of teams online.
  2. If there is no EPI team in your area, then contact your local mental health team.  There are separate teams for children and youth (under 18) or adults (18+). You can call 811 to ask for contact information for these services. When you contact the service, ask to be put in touch with an Early Psychosis clinician to assess a young person for psychosis. Being specific in asking for early psychosis assessment may help speed up the process of getting the young person effective treatment.
  3. If neither of the above services exist locally, the affected person should go to their family doctor and let them know they might be experiencing psychosis.

Online Support and Answer Groups

Would you like to talk online with others who are supporting or caring about someone with psychosis, schizophrenia, a mood disorder, depression or some other mental health concern?

Would you like to ask questions about mental illness and get information on support and services available to you in BC?

Click here to go to our online support forum, which provides support for family members and supporters.

For more detailed information about the support forums, please see below:

The BC Schizophrenia Society and the Mind Foundation (on behalf of BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information) are pleased to announce the launch of a series of new online support groups.

These support groups are for people caring for a loved one:

  • who is having difficulty coping with difficult thoughts, experiences or emotions, or
  • who may have a brain condition or mental illness affecting their thoughts emotions or behaviour.

The online groups are anonymous, private and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are three groups in the series. All groups are moderated. To go directly to the support groups, click here

For in-person or phone support– please check for support groups in your area on the calendar or by contacting your local BCSS Coordinator for groups not curently listed.

To go directly to the groups page, click here (NOTE: you will need to register (click on the register link) to view or post in the family support forums. You will need to provide your email address to register but no-one other than our moderators will be able to see it. )

Group Descriptions

1) Family Support Group – This group is for a family member, spouse, parent, sibling, friend of a person with a mental illness. It is a private online place to discuss ideas and experiences, to ask questions and to share resources and information with one another. You are welcome to use your real name or a pseudonym/nicname when you register to this group, and only those people registered with the forum will be able to see what is written on the list or post responses.

2) LGBT Family Support Group – This group is for persons who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered, and who also are caring for a loved one or family member with a mental illness. It is a private online place to discuss ideas and experiences, to ask questions and to share resources and information with one another. You are welcome to use your real name or a pseudonym/nicname when you register to this group, and only those people registered with the forum will be able to see what is written on the list or post responses. This group is moderated by program coordinator Sophia Kelly.

3) Rural Family Support Group – This group is just like the Family Support group (#1) above, except for people living in rural areas. Since services are so different in rural BC, it makes sense to have a place to ask questions, share experiences and talk about caring for someone with a mental illness that is just for folks living outside the major centres in BC. This online support group is moderated by Kim Dixon, the BCSS Regional Coordinator for the Prince George area. (The same as the above two groups, you are welcome to use your full name or a nicname to register with the group for increased privacy, and only those people registered with the forum will be able to see what is written in the group area or post responses. )

How To Get Involved / Confidentiality

In order to preserve the privacy of the groups (and to prevent spam) you will need to register to participate in any of these groups. To register, click on this link. (Make sure you answer the question in the first part of the registration screen, that helps verify you”re a person and not a spam robot.) You will need to provide your email address when registering, but no-one other than the moderators will be able to see it. You can view the descriptions of the various groups by clicking here.

Once you”ve registered for the group you will be able to log in and join the support group that suits you best. If you need help getting registered please email for help.

Note to group members and researchers: The posts in the support forums are private, belong to their authors and need to be respected as confidential. No permission is granted for any use of the support forums or the information within for anything other than personal support. Research enquiries or other announcements are not welcome and will be deleted from the support forums. Announcements may be posted in the Information area of the site.

Volunteers: The groups are new and the conversation is just starting up, so we invite you to introduce yourself and start a conversation on the groups to help get things going. We”re also looking for volunteers willing to be ‘greeters” on the list – this low-commitment volunteer position would be to make a point of logging into the list once a week and posting or replying to posts to help stimulate discussion and welcome new members. Please contact if you are interested in helping out in this way.

This project is funded by BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information www.heretohelp.bc.ca

Family Toolkit

How You Can Help:A Toolkit for Families 2004 When a family member suffers from a mental illness, one of the most important things to do is to take the time to learn about the disorder. By educating yourself as much as you can about the mental or substance use disorder, you can take an active role in your family member’s recovery. The Family Toolkit was designed to assist families in caring for a family member with a mental illness by providing information and practical resources.The toolkit consists of an introduction and five learning modules:

  • Introduction: Overview of Toolkit (170 KB) Download PDF
  • Module 1: Understanding Mental and Substance Use Disorders presents an overview of common mental and substance use disorders and how to seek help if you suspect your family member is experiencing mental health problems. (271 KB) Download PDF
  • Module 2: Supporting Recovery from a Mental or Substance Use Disorder provides information and practical resources that can help families and their family member effectively manage their mental illness on a day-to-day basis and prevent a relapse of symptoms.
    (385 KB) Download PDF
  • Module 3: Communication and Problem-Solving Skills provides practical skill training in effective communication and problem-solving.
    (329 KB) Download PDF
  • Module 4: Caring for Yourself and Other Family Members informs on how a family member’s illness impacts all members of the family and suggestions for coping.
    (264 KB) Download PDF
  • Module 5: Children and Youth in the School System provides information for parents on supports and services needed to ensure that children and adolescents with a mental illness can work to the best of their ability in school.
    ( 499 KB) Download PDF

Take a “Walk Through the Toolkit” PowerPoint overview (1.2MB)

Drugs and Psychosis

– Psychosis can be induced by drugs or can be “drug assisted”. Some stimulating drugs, like amphetamines, can cause psychosis, while other drugs, including marijuana, can trigger the onset of psychosis in someone who is already at increased risk because they have “vulnerability”.

It is also believed that some drugs such as amphetamines and cocaine can cause a condition known as a drug-induced psychosis. This psychosis can last up to a few days, and is often characterized by hallucinations, delusions, memory loss and confusion. This usually results from prolonged or heavy street-drug use; and it responds well to treatment.

Cannabis and Psychosis – information on why marijuana/pot/hash/cannabis is risky for people who have psychosis or are at risk for psychosis

Marijuana use increases risk for psychosis by 40% – An article by Theresa H.M. Moore, MSc, from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, and colleagues was published in the July 28 issue of The Lancet. Moore compared the results of several research studies that followed people over a period of time (systematic review of longitudinal studies). She found that there is enough new evidence that the use of cannabis (marijuana) increases the risk for later psychotic illness by roughly 40%.

What Causes Psychosis?

How to Get Help for Psychosis

Supporting Students with Psychosis on Return to School

The following is posted here with permission of the Vancouver Richmond Early Psychosis Intervention Program www.hopevancouver.com Please see the following link for a printable version: Supporting Students with Psychosis Return to School

Dispel myths and stigma

  • Likelihood of violence is not greater in a student with psychosis.
  • Keep hurtful words like “psycho” or “crazy” out of the classroom.

Remember that brain diseases cause psychosis

  • Difficulties learning and socializing are often because of illness, rather than poor character, attitude, or parenting.
  • Motivation, thinking, fitting in, confidence, and spontaneity are all affected
  • Improvement will be gradual, with temporary set-backs.
  • Allow for difficulties with concentration and thinking
  • Reduce homework demands if possible, especially initially.
  • Provide a quiet room and/or more time for exams.
  • Allow the student enough time to respond to questions or instructions.
  • Use varied instructional techniques and modalities.

Provide breaks

  • Modify schedules, if possible, to allow for 1 or more study blocks.
  • Find a low-stimulation ‘safe place’ where the student can take breaks.
  • Strike a balance between encouraging the student to stay in the classroom and also providing a refuge if he or she is very overwhelmed or anxious.

Consider the effect of medications

  • Most students will take psychiatric medications that are very helpful.
  • Medication side-effects are often troublesome, usually lessening with time.
  • Using gum or hard candy can help with dry mouth side-effects.
  • Drowsiness may not be from late nights or lack of interest, but from side-effects. Suggest the student/family talk to their doctor if extreme drowsiness lasts for more than a few weeks.

Support re-integration

  • Have a designated staff person, such as a counsellor or youth worker, check in with the student; do not expect the student to take the initiative.
  • Anticipate that the student may be embarrassed about psychosis.
  • Remind the student that he or she does not need to discuss the psychosis experience with everyone who asks; help the student with what to say to maintain privacy.
  • Suggest that the student confide in trusted friends, if comfortable.

What if my brother or sister (or friend) has psychosis?

[Printable Version]

“When my sister got sick she was acting really bizarre and the police had to take her to emergency. It was really scary. My friends didn’t understand at first that it was just because her brain was sick, but they do now.”

Why is my brother or sister acting this way?

Psychosis is an illness of the brain. It is caused in part by genetic (inherited) brain problems plus stress or street drugs like marijuana and crystal meth. When the brain gets ill, it is hard for the person to know what is wrong. They may make up and believe other explanations for why they feel so weird, and they may act strangely. It will be really hard for them to tell the difference between what is real and not real. Psychosis can be treated, and the earlier it is treated, the easier their recovery is likely to be.

Will I get it too?

The risk for psychosis is about three in every hundred people. If you have a sister or brother with psychosis your risk of getting it is one in ten. You have way more chance of NOT getting psychosis than of getting it.

However, if sometime in the future you think you might be getting ill you can go to your family doctor for a checkup. It is also a really, really good idea to avoid using street drugs like marijuana and crystal meth, which put stress on the parts of the brain that are involved in psychosis. If there is an early psychosis service in your area, the people there can also talk to you and answer any questions you have. They might be able to put you in touch with some other siblings of people with psychosis to talk to, as well.

Was it something I did?

Psychosis is a medical illness. Sometimes when something hard happens in your life or to your family, people deal with it by blaming themselves. You don’t need to. There’s nothing you could have done to cause your brother or sister’s illness.

How can I help?

You can help by being around to talk, by being positive, by giving sincere compliments and by gently encouraging your brother or sister to do things they’re good at. Doing one-on-one things with your brother or sister will be better than doing things in crowds. They’re likely to be giving themselves a hard time about their illness. You can help by being encouraging and reminding them it’s an illness and they will get better.

How long will it take for them to get better?

Nowadays, psychosis is normally treated with low doses of antipsychotic medication along with education and support for the person and their family. Once they start treatment, it can take a few months to up to a year for the person to get better. Sometimes they’ll have some leftover symptoms that hang on longer. While they’re recovering, they’re likely to have a lot less energy to do things, be a lot quieter, need a lot more alone time, and prefer not to be in large crowds or noisy places.

This information was written in 2005 by Sophia Kelly for the BC Schizophrenia Society, on behalf of BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information with funding from the Provincial Health Services Authority © 2005 Permission to copy and use this publication is granted for non-profit educational purposes.