9 ways to support someone who’s living with psychosis

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Do you think someone in your life is living with or experiencing psychosis? Learning about signs of psychosis and ways to be there for someone who’s having an episode can help you feel better prepared to support them. Here, Kids Help Phone shares more information about psychosis and how you can support someone who’s experiencing it (while respecting everyone’s boundaries).

How can I know if someone is living with psychosis?

It can be difficult to tell exactly what someone else is going through. The signs of psychosis vary from person to person. Only a health-care professional can determine if someone has developed psychosis and diagnose a mental disorder or other condition. However, a person who’s dealing with psychosis may experience these common signs:

  • a loss of usual interests / motivation
  • changes in emotion
  • delusions
  • difficulty organizing / expressing thoughts
  • hallucinations
  • mood swings
  • paranoia
  • personality changes
  • trouble with memory, concentration, problem solving and / or judgment

Try to keep in mind that these symptoms can be a part of other things like trauma, stress, daily life, mental disorders, health conditions and more — they don’t necessarily mean a person is living with psychosis. We’ve included them here to help with your understanding of what someone may be going through.

How can I be there for someone who’s living with psychosis?

It can be hard to know how to approach someone who’s living with psychosis. You may be concerned about the person’s safety, well-being and / or their reaction to you bringing up a sensitive topic. It can be helpful to learn about navigating tough conversations and offering support so you can feel more confident about being there for the person while taking care of yourself.

Here are some ways you can support a person who’s living with psychosis:

Learn more about psychosis.

Educating yourself can give you a better understanding of what may be going on. Having the facts can also help you challenge stigma around things like mental health.

Ask the person if you can chat.

Connect in a way that feels safe and comfortable for both of you. Keep in mind that if the person is having an episode, it may not be the best time to talk. You can always involve a safe adult to make sure the person is safe and supported during an active state of psychosis.

Let the person know you’re thinking about them.

You can say, “I’m worried about you, and I’m here for you. How are you feeling about things in your life right now?” During your chat, you can also share your concerns with them. You can use specific examples like, “The other day you looked frightened and were saying things I didn’t understand. Do you want to talk about that?”

Listen without judgment.

Try to make space for them to share what’s on their mind, if they’re up for it. Try not to talk the person out of their feelings, especially if they seem to be having unusual / distorted thoughts. What they’re experiencing may feel very real to them. You can ask, “Is there anything that could help you feel better?” or, “Can we talk to someone together who can help us figure out what to do?”

Research support options.

There are resources available to folks living with psychosis. You can explore them on your own or with the other person. You could begin by searching Resources Around Me for programs and services available across Canada.

Try not to push the person.

Follow their lead, and if things are too intense, suggest taking a break. You can let them know you’re there for them if they want to talk in the future. You can remind them of their strengths, that there’s hope and that you’re there to support them.

Tell a safe adult.

If you’re worried about the person’s safety, you can let a teacher, parent / caregiver, counsellor or other safe adult know. They may have suggestions on how to help. If you think the person is in immediate danger, you can contact emergency services or mobile crisis support (if it’s available) in your area.

Take care of your mental health.

You’re doing the best you can by supporting someone you care about. Setting boundaries (tips from our friends at Good2Talk) and practising a self-care routine are ways you can reflect on and support your own well-being, too.  

Reach out to others.

You can connect with others who’ve had similar lived experiences. It could be an opportunity to learn tips from them and even offer your own ideas. The Peer-to-Peer Community at Kids Help Phone could be a starting point.

Being there for someone who’s living with psychosis can be challenging. Finding a balance between supporting the person and caring for yourself can take time and practice. If you’d like to talk to someone about psychosis and how it’s impacting your life, you can contact Kids Help Phone 24/7.