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.

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