Helping a Schizophrenic Person During a Psychotic Episode
An assistant district attorney with the Philadelphia Office of the District Attorney, Joseph “Joe” Torda has litigated numerous felony cases and pre-trial motions and conducted jury trials and bench trials for various armed robbery and attempted murder cases. He currently works with the Gun Violence Task Force, where he presides over up to 40 felony preliminary hearings weekly. Outside of his work, Joseph Torda enjoys spending time with his family members, some of whom have been impacted by the opioid pandemic and mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.
People living with schizophrenia are susceptible to erratic psychotic episodes. These episodes, which can include delusions and hallucinations, disconnect them from reality. If someone close to you has schizophrenia, you should know the best way to support them in the midst of a psychotic episode.
A psychotic episode is indicated when a schizophrenic person hears or sees things that are not real (hallucinations) or adamantly believes things that are not true. If you are aware that a person has schizophrenia, you should not argue with them or challenge their beliefs when they show signs of delusion. According to WebMD, the ideal way to respond to a delusion is to tell them that each person sees things differently and their perspective may be different from yours. You should explain this in a calm manner.
Hallucinations often require intervention. If a schizophrenic person is hallucinating, you should call 911 and explain the situation to the dispatcher. It is important to make the dispatcher aware that the person has schizophrenia. Try to do this in a surreptitious way, by having another person watch over them while you contact 911. While you wait for police or paramedics, you should remain calm and not argue or threaten the individual. You should also avoid making eye contact with them. Eye contact with a schizophrenic person who is acting out a hallucination can cause them to panic.