Last fall, the BC Coroner’s Service released a report documenting the number of deaths related to the heat dome we experienced last summer. Unfortunately, one of the most affected populations was those living with schizophrenia and other severe and persistent mental illnesses. You can read the full report here.

In response to these findings, the BC Schizophrenia Society (BCSS) has been working to identify some tips for family members and people living with schizophrenia as the temperatures soar. The following list has been adapted from resources found through Health Canada’s Resources for Extreme Heat Events; however, please also reach out to a medical professional to discuss your concerns and plans as you prepare for any environmental crisis.

Identify Your Risk

Not everyone is at risk of overheating in the same way. Heat also affects everyone differently. Here are just a few potential heat-related risk factors: age, diet (i.e. whether you drink a lot of caffeine or alcohol, the food you eat, and your water consumption), level of physical activity, whether you smoke, and what medications you take. All of these can impact our bodies’ abilities to manage or deal with heat.

Know When to Take Action

Pay attention to local weather forecasts and alerts to help you know when to be more aware of risks. When we are inside and the heat rises, it is easy for us not to notice how warm it is getting. Some people’s bodies may sweat more to let them know that it is getting hotter in a room, but others may not.

Find a way to monitor the temperature of your room or apartment. Learn some of the symptoms or indicators of heat-related health risks (i.e. heat rash, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, etc.). This can help you better identify and know when a person may need more help. 

Prepare a List of Solutions

Make a list of the things that you can do to keep yourself and your place cool. Whether it is going outside to a park or place where there is air conditioning (e.g. your local community centre, library, or mall), taking cool showers throughout the day, or drawing your blinds to reflect out light and heat, create a list of things to do when you know the temperature is rising. And if someone has a high body temperature and is either unconscious, confused, or has stopped sweating, call 911 or your local emergency services.

Stay Connected

Make plans to visit friends, family members, and neighbours during hot days. This can help them and help you. You may be able to notice something unusual in their behaviour that may indicate a heat-related illness. You can also use this chance to ask for help or use it as a reminder to leave your home, which may be warmer than the conditions outdoors.