Brother has schizophrenia and is lonely. I need advice as to how to help?


#1

Hi there, I’m writing to anyone that has any advice… My Brother has quite severe Schizophrenia and is living alone currently in a town, under the income of my Dad’s finances. Some say he’s fortunate to have the financial support but however he’s so un well he cannot Work, he cannot focus nor socialise it’s all too much for him to emerge into society, with the voices and lack of confidence. He’s s very lonely young man (26 years of age) and it breaks my heart; everyday I think of him and feel pain, he’s had aggressive outbursts in the past towards all of us family members and I guess over time we’ve fallen flat not knowing what to do next after trying almost everything. He’s not someone who’s aware of his problems, he thinks everyone is the bad guy but himself, his lifestyle as anyone can imagine is also very unhygienic and now he’s turned to alcohol as an escape. As his younger sister it’s pretty heart breaking and he can’t live with any of us. I’m pretty sure he feels his computer is his only friend, due to his lack of focus and normal conversation abilities. I just don’t know what to do, the mental health team don’t help with people who won’t help themselves at his age, so what now?


#2

Is your brother asking for help to socialize? If he is, then I would choose one thing at a time to help him. Perhaps he would do the NAMI Peer to Peer course. NAMI is a great resource.

I hate to say it, but If he isn’t asking you for help to socialize, then maybe he is fine with how he is living (even though it bothers you). It is common for someone with this illness to isolate themselves. My daughter stays pretty much 24/7 in her room, busy with her own self.


#3

Hi, thanks so much for your reply. Actually, he doesn’t ask at all, but he posts on Instagram often ‘bored on my own’ but when I confront him he denies it. I think you may be right, I never quite think of it that way. I’m well aware of it being a common sign/symptom as he’s done it since he got ill really but I just fail to think it’s the answer, I worry about him a lot.

Best wishes, thank you


#4

I agree with @oldladyblue that things won’t change for him if he doesn’t want to change his lifestyle, or ask for help.
My own brother isolated himself and tried to manage on his own (in varying degrees) for a few years. Obviously, it didn’t make him feel any better.
All you can do is try to be ready for the day when your brother does ask for help.
Group therapy like the kind provided by NAMI, or a behavioral health facility is super helpful from what I’ve seen. But only if the diagnosed person really wants to be there to get help.

In the meantime, you could occasionally call your brother and just try to help reassure him that you think he’s a good person. Ask him what he has been up to recently, and let him talk about real world stuff. If he gets too philosophical, or starts seeming delusional, you can certainly wrap up the conversation and get off the phone.
I did this for my brother for a long time. Just called to listen for a while. Eventually, he started talking about his desire to be in a relationship and have a job. I was supportive and always told him I’d be there to give advice or to help him get things done if he needed. After several years, he began to realize that he had significant anxiety about dating, and also about working. I reminded him that everyone feels some anxiety about big changes like that, but if he felt like his anxiety was stopping him from even trying, he deserved to have a fighting chance. That his family would be happy to help him overcome some of that anxiety and that therapy could be really helpful, too.
I came at the conversations about that from the perspective that he deserves to have a good relationship and a good job. That most people need help getting those things, especially me (despite how relatively put together I might seem).
When he asked if I would personally go to a therapist if I had anxiety about work or dating, I told him I would do it today if anxiety were stopping me from getting what I want.

While anxiety might not be your brother’s biggest concern, he might attribute his symptoms to a range of different struggles. By being empathic and patient, you can become the kind of trusted ally he needs to start opening up about what he’s dealing with.
Just remember that you have your own life to live. You don’t have to entertain his delusions. If conversation turns hostile, or too outlandish, give yourself permission to politely get off the phone and back to your own affairs.

People with Sz and SzA need time to realize that their symptoms require some outside help. Until then, you can only be a trustworthy and friendly influence amid a chaotic whirlind of inner struggle for him.


#5

I am aware of a movement to create locations around the country where persons with MI can safely hangout, socialize, and get some basic skills and where other resources might be provided to “help get their lives back”. It is called Clubhouse International. There is not one yet in my area but there are people passionate about this and working toward opening one.


#6

Of course you worry, and you hope for better for him, but the terrible thing is that often there is NO overall answer. Just help him by listening, telling him you care, and if he asks for help then try to give it. That might be the best you can do.


#7

Yes, there is one in my area. The person with MI has to WANT to go there, and HAS to be medicated (they check with the person’s psychiatrist) so it wouldn’t accept my unmedicated daughter even though she wanted to go there. However, for those who qualify, it is a GREAT place.


#8

Thanks, @oldladyblue that makes sense. Then for @Panda, I suggest reading through many of the posts on this Forum as you best can. I advocate for using the approach explained in the book “I Am Not Sick; I Don’t Need Help”, which you can also read about at LEAPInstitute.org. I just don’t know what else to offer when families are at a loss as to what to do and they are able to at least interact in some way with person who has SMI. In my mind, it is well worth a try! Don’t give up but recognize that we cannot fix everything. I also recommend NAMI.org which offers support for families, too. Find a local NAMI support group, if possible.


#9

@Panda, thank you for sharing. I feel the same way about my brother who is in his early 30s and used to have quite a social lifestyle in highschool and in college. Now he lives at home, watches TV and spends time on the computer. I feel like he wants more but has developed certain fears overtime that prevent him from being able to pursue work or social opportunities.


#10

What about getting him a pet? Cats are easy and fascinating to watch.


#11

The pet idea isn’t bad at all.
My SzA brother has cared for a hermit crab for years. They require almost zero time and attention, and can be left with just food and water for days at a time.
Just don’t be surprised if the idea of caring for an animal causes some anxiety. DX’d people sometimes don’t think highly of themselves or their ability to have a positive impact on anything at all.


#12

I know of someone with SZ who has a trained dog that, in addition to providing companionship, wakes the person up at a set time in the morning. This person also has a dog-walking business and lives independently (after eventually becoming med and talk-therapy compliant).