Take the initiative: If symptoms are occurring, ask your doctor for an assessment or referral. Family members are usually the first to notice symptoms and try to get medical help. If the ill person believes hallucinations and delusions are reality, they may resist treatment. Do not give up. Remember, the earlier psychosis is treated, the better the prognosis is for the individual.

Be persisent: Find a doctor who is familiar with schizophrenia. The assessment and treatment of schizophrenia and psychosis should be done by people who are well-qualified. Choose a physician who has an interest in the illness, who is competent and has empathy with patients and their families. If you lack confidence in a physician or psychiatrist, you always have the right to seek a second opinion.

Assist the doctor/psychiatrist: People with psychosis may not be able to volunteer much information during an assessment. Talk to the doctor yourself, or write a letter describing your concerns, (e.g. create a one-page summary of previous diagnoses, medication history, what the family/advocate thinks the problem is and best way to address it, etc). Be specific. Be persistent. The information you supply can help the physician towards more accurate assessment and treatment.

Tips for First Contact

  • Rehearse before you call. State what you need clearly and briefly.
  • Make a note of the names of the people you talk to, along with the date and approximate time.
  • If you can’t get the help or information you need, ask to speak to a case manager, supervisor, or the person in charge.
  • If you can’t immediately reach the doctor or case manager, ask when you may expect a return call, or when the person will be free for you to call back.

Where do I Get Help? Getting Started

Contact the BC Schizophrenia Society

If you’re trying to get help for a loved one with schizophrenia, psychosis or another serious mental illness, the BC Schizophrenia Society can help. Because services and procedures vary widely from region to region, it’s helpful to speak to someone familiar with the local situation. Please visit our Regional Educators & Branches page for contact information for your area.

Or you can reach any of our staff in the province at one number: 604-270-7841 or toll free at 1-888-888-0029. Just call and ask for the educator for your city or town, or for the name of the person you would like to speak to.

Emergency Access

9-1-1 is the number to call in an immediate emergency, across BC.

Visit our Seeking Help (People Living with Schizophrenia) page.

The 310-Mental Health support line is available 24 hours per day across BC: Call 310-6789 (no area code needed) toll-free anywhere in B.C. to access emotional support, information, and resources specific to mental health and substance use issues.

Vancouver Coastal Health: visit the Vancouver Coastal Health webpage regarding emergency mental health services.

Fraser Health: visit the Fraser Health webpage regarding emergency mental health services, including First Nations emergency contacts.

Vancouver Island Health: visit the Island Health webpage regarding mental health crisis and emergency services.

Also see their Early Psychosis Intervention webpage.

Interior Health: Visit the Interior Health webpage regarding acute psychiatry services, for patients presenting to Emergency, or see IHA’s general mental health services webpage.

Northern Health: Visit the Northern Health webpage regarding mental health services, including emergency contacts.

Other resources for assessment and treatment

The British Columbia Ministry of Health is the government department responsible for Mental Health Services in British Columbia. Assessment and treatment are available through Regional Mental Health centres throughout the province. To find the one nearest you, dial 8-1-1 in BC, or contact the BC Schizophrenia Society 604-270-7841 or BC toll-free 1-888-888-0029.

Other help resources in BC

HealthLink BC | non-emergency health services information

Early Psychosis Intervention | program contact information for each health authority for early psychosis intervention

The Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of BC (Crisis Centre) | non-profit, volunteer organization committed to helping people help themselves and others deal with crisis

ReachOut Psychosis | further education and advocacy by the BC Schizophrenia Society, and more links for getting help

BC Psychosis – Resources for families | BC Psychosis program blog

Pathways Serious Mental Illness Society – “Families Helping Families” | West Vancouver-based organization helping families with relatives who have mental illness

Kelty Mental Health (BC Children’s Hospital) | resources for child and youth mental health

Reaching Families Project | website resource developed by BCSS for online support for families.

See the following brochures in our Resource Library for more information on how family and friends can help:

Get Support: Learn From the Experience of Others

Knowing where to go and who to see ­and how to avoid wasting precious time and energy ­can make huge difference when trying to find good treatment. Continuity of care is also very important. Ultimately, this will involve ongoing medical, financial, housing, and other social supports. All of these services are critical for recovery — yet they tend to be very poorly coordinated.

Support groups can help you figure out how to access much-needed services. They can also advocate for better, more integrated services for people with schizophrenia and their families. Support groups are great for sharing experiences with others. You can also learn a lot and get helpful advice about how to deal with your local mental health services from those who have “been there.”

Check out resources in your community. If you are the parent, spouse, sibling, or child of someone with schizophrenia it helps to know you are not alone.

Call the Mental Health clinic in your community (you can dial 8-1-1 if you are unsure where this is). ­ Ask about their family education program.

Join the BC Schizophrenia Society! Call 604-270-7841 or toll free 1-888-888-0029 for information on how to join.

“What else can we do?”

Family members and friends of people with schizophrenia can be a powerful force for change.

Getting involved is important because many people with schizophrenia are not able to advocate or navigate the mental health system themselves. Family members, friends and other loved ones often face the daunting task of trying to both provide support and advocate. By getting involved, you can share your own experiences, advocate and help other families find “reasons to hope and the means to cope.”

Getting involved with BC Schizophrenia Society will:

  • Give you the information you need to be an effective advocate for your ill relative
  • Give you the education and support you need to change an inadequate mental health system
  • Provide you an avenue to share your story with other families to help them better navigate and understand the mental health system
  • Help you to join your voice with thousands of other family members so that we can all speak more loudly!

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