Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Advice on discipline for young man with schizophrenia

Hello, everyone. A young man (mid twenties) with diagnosed and unmedicated schizophrenia has recently started coming to a weekly community event that I volunteer for. We cater to a highly diverse group of people, some of whom have struggled with poverty, teen pregnancy, addiction, abuse, homelessness, mental illness, and disability. While the event is geared for teenagers, all ages are welcome, and many young adults who grew up at this event continue to attend regularly.

He is very kind and friendly, but has recently started flirting with and staring at one of the workers. She acts as disinterested as possible without being rude. Recently, he started inappropriately touching her when she had her back turned to him. When she left, he followed her out to her car.

We do not want to kick this man out of our event, but we are concerned for the safety of our workers, teens, and children who attend. I don’t know much about this man’s situation, but our meetings could be a great opportunity for him to socialize, make friends, learn about God, and have a hot meal in a safe and loving environment.

Do you have any advice on how we should discipline this behavior in order to prevent any problems from occurring in the future?

Thank you so much for your advice,
Kayla J

When I get a manic/ euphoric spike… (I’m very embarrassed to say… I fight the deepest urge to hug people.) Sometimes in the past I loose in the fight… I have hugged strangers.

My meds have changed… and I’ve had counseling on how to fight these urges… so that behavior is over.

I would ask… have you talked to him… let him know in clear terms that he can NOT attend if he is going to touch and stalk others. (I have a feeling you might have) but a stern reminder that it’s not acceptable might be in order.

There are times I was NOT aware of how badly I was freaking people out… my insight and my ability to read a basic social situations was non-existent.

There were times I wasn’t aware at all how hugging a stranger could be a bad thing.

People had to let me know what I was doing and to quit doing it.

I hope the situation resolves quickly with very little embarrassment.

If your open to other help…

has branches in a lot of towns… they might have a councilor or professional with more immediate help.

Good luck.

I’m with SurprisedJ on this. Your person is probably not aware that his behavior is not appropriate. Just telling him that much might help.


Ugh, this can be tough. I think that there is a good chance that he isn’t completely aware of how he is coming off. He may be “too interested” but may not realize how it is being perceived. That doesn’t make it OK of course, but it can help dictate how you approach him. I know that for me, if I was in his place, I may have an understanding of who I was talking with but a lot of the “interacting” would be done in my mind while I was alone and a lot of what he’s feeling may have nothing to do with the real person but a scenario in his head. This may be very uncomfortable for him. It may be a lot of thoughts and voices that are loud and annoying and acting out this idea of liking this woman is the only way to calm them. His view of how things are going are likely different. His perception of social interactions in general is likely fractured. This can be a very sore subject for him, and if he is attacked on his ability to interact with other people, he may become very defensive.

I understand that you have many reasons for why this group could benefit him, but it’s a group and therefore is for many others as well. If he has now become too interested in a staff member it is important to try to redirect his thinking ASAP - before he becomes more involved. Don’t rely on social cues you would use on most people, he likely cannot read them the same way. Being direct is very important, and can be done very respectfully.

I would confront him about this this way:

After a meeting, meet with him and maybe another staff member if you have one available - a male staff member may be perfect, if he is fixed on a female staff member having a male there can help with his own ego. If he’s made “advances,” having a female confront him is likely not going to help you out. This isn’t an attack on him, you sound like you really want to be able to help him, you just need to make sure that everyone else is safe too.

I would see if the male staff (if this is possible) could talk to him one-on-one briefly and just sort of gauge where his mind is. He can ask how he feels about the rest of the staff and have that lead into a more direct inquiry on the staff member he is showing interest in. Invite HIM to tell you what HE is feeling. Ask what his goals are, what he wants to get out of the group. Explain that this is a community event and that everyone has different specific circumstances but that they are all there for support. Once he has been able to be heard, explain that the way the meetings work is that the staff can’t interact with group attendees outside of the group. Make it understood that this isn’t a special restriction for just him, it’s a universal rule. Mention that staff so-and-so was a little uncomfortable by his advances. Explain that she and everyone else there wants to help him and get him on a good path, just like everyone else. Remind him that this is a group, and that a group can offer support from all kinds of people but in order for it to work, EVERYONE needs to feel welcome.

See how he reacts to any of this. If he is unmedicated you can ask if he has a doctor he likes and what the doctor thinks about his situation. Tell him that medication may be able to help him and offer him some resources (pamphlets or the number of a doctor’s office or whatever services your area has/uses) so that he can try some sort of treatment in addition to the group. Really make this about wanting to help him. You can be firm, but kind, he has to follow the same rules as everyone else. Remember that in order to have a successful group, everyone needs to feel safe. If one member is rocking the boat, the best option can be to not have that member attend anymore (if he refuses to listen/change his behavior). If it turns out that he needs to stop attending, see if you can recommend another place for him to go.

I’d do this ASAP before it goes further. He likely has additional “encounters” with this woman in his head, and many of the things he thinks about her may be exaggerations and ideations. Snap him into reality before he goes deeper into his own world. If he continues to approach this woman, then you will need to take additional action of course, but this is my idea for how to confront him.

I hope some of this helps. A lot of people fall through the cracks because their behavior has been deemed too odd or dangerous. If they are just tossed out they will only go deeper into themselves and start causing problems for others. It’s admirable that you have asked for a way to help him not rudely. Hopefully you can help direct him to someone who can help him more intensively so he doesn’t end up just wandering in his own head.

Thank you for your words of wisdom! The butt grabbing and following her out to her car happened at the last meeting (didn’t really specify that, oops), and I thought it was important that we had a plan of action for next week, so things didn’t escalate any further.
I have Asperger’s/autism spectrum disorder, so I can totally empathize with having difficulty interpreting how to react in new social situations. The community here is pretty “huggy” and into high fives, so maybe he couldn’t tell where to draw the line for physical touch.
I will try to get one of our male leaders to pull him aside and talk with him about what is and isn’t ok to do and see if that works. The girl he is interested in will be out of town next week; I hope that will make the discussion less awkward for everyone involved.

Thank you for your work with the disadvantaged. Even in the psych ward guys hit on girls who appeared overly friendly. I would suggest your lady friend cut ties with him. Thank you and God bless.

If you just talk to him he will probably be so embarrassed that he will stop. I agree that he might not understand he is being inappropriate. My guess is that he will not want to embarrass himself further if it is brought to his attention. Tell him that he made a mistake in touching the girl but if he stops it he will be OK there and there will be no further embarrassment and the matter will be over as long as he doesn’t do it again, to her or anybody else. Be a little stern and firm, but friendly when you talk to him and be clear as to exactly what you mean. Make sure he understands what he did was wrong and make sure he understands why it was wrong. Just be tactful, but clear on what you want to say.