Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Unwanted help from naive family members

My nephew and my son (diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder) have always had a close relationship growing up. Now both in their 20’s, they still keep in touch but see each other less often now that they live in different cities. Since my son became ill, his cousin seems to believe he can cure him by taking him back to nature (not sure what that means) and expects him to just snap out of it. He’s even suggested that the meds my son takes are doing him more harm than good. I have tried many times to educate my family, and encourage them to learn more about the illness on their own. I find this unwanted help and naive perspective very annoying and hope it doesn’t ever influence my son’s choices. Any suggestions on how to approach these ignorant intrusions without fracturing any family relationships?

Wow - thats a difficult situation. I guess the first thing to keep in mind is that the nephew really cares about your son and wants to help. Thats a good thing - however misdirected his thinking is right now in terms of the reality of the disorder.

You also want to keep a good relationship with your nephew, and its also helpful for your son to have good relationships (as people with schizophrenia frequently isolate themselves - and thats very unhealthy).

So - the goal has to be (I think) to both maintain your relationship with your nephew and also your nephew’s relationship with your son - just to help make sure the influence is a positive one.

My personal approach in this type of situation would be to make sure your nephew understands that you really appreciate his concern and interest in helping your son. And to help him learn more about the illness. You might have a lunch with him sometime (if that is convenient, or just send him a letter). I would try to convey to him that “we all want the best for our son…” and are working closely with doctors who spend their lives studying this disorder and are working with people every day and getting them better".

And - to be honest - your nephew seems to have read something about the illness - but just not that much. Living in a low stress, rural environment might be helpful for people with schizophrenia - compared to the higher stress world of city-living. There is a lot of research that shows that the rates of schizophrenia are higher in cities - but that is likely due to many reasons, from higher stress in cities, higher pollution rates, etc - and there is not much research around the idea that moving people out of cities into “nature” will lead to any type of miraculous improvement. If there is not a good support system in place in the rural or “natural” environment (e.g. friends and family) then its not going to be positive.

Also - mention that there are many unproven, and even unhelpful approaches that people talk about on the Internet that have no scientific evidence behind them and that people neverth less push with the mistaken belief that it helps people.

Part of the risk in moving away from the medical treatment approach to schizophrenia - is that there are increased risks of relapse, and everything a person relapses it frequently becomes harder to get the person back up to the previous level of functioning - and so there is real risk in trying “unproven” approaches and disregarding medications and therapy.

There are many good books on the topic of schizophrenia. You might share some of them with your nephew to help him get up to speed on current treatments and realities - and not just relying on something simple that he saw on the Internet somewhere.

Here are some of those books:


Or, perhaps more of a narrative story:

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I’ve been thinking on this more… one of the issues is that if your nephew is younger (say, under 25 or 30) he likely gets most of his information from social media or online videos - so he likely won’t read a book.

Perhaps finding some good videos on youtube would help him get up to speed on the science of schizophrenia:

Here are some good ones that you might share with him - the Kahn Academy is a well known source of good information:




Great information, thank you. I have a few books on schizophrenia and especially like “The Complete Family Guide to Schizophrenia: Helping Your Loved One Get the Most Out of Life”. The funny thing about my nephew suggesting my son should be back in nature, is that we actually live on an acreage and as far as I can tell we’re already living right dab in the middle of nature! :slight_smile: I know my nephew means well, and I appreciate all the tips and videos you’ve suggested too. I think that’s a great way to reach out to a younger audience interested in learning more on the topic. Thanks again for your advice. It’s been very helpful.