Practicing mental health counselors and counselors-in-training have better attitudes when referring to clients as “people with schizophrenia” rather than “schizophrenic,” according to a study published in the October issue of the Journal of Counseling & Development.
The researchers found that the attitudes of patients with schizophrenia were more authoritarian, more socially restrictive, and less benevolent with the use of the term “schizophrenic.”
“Language matters. The words we use can reduce stigma and improve the quality of care, Granello says in a statement. “The take-home message is clear — all people, even mental health professionals, are affected by the words and labels that we use. We now have empirical evidence that taking the time to utter a few more syllables and include the word ‘person’ has real potential to make a difference in the lives of our clients.”
How to communicate with someone with schizophrenia
People with schizophrenia often suffer from hallucinations and delusions that can impact their communication skills. In order to have effective communication with someone with schizophrenia, you must meet them where they are instead of trying to “fix” them.
Try approaching your loved one with schizophrenia in the following ways, according to Healthline:
- Acknowledge what your loved one may be feeling.
- Actively listen to what they express they’re feeling, sensing, or hearing, regardless of whether it makes sense to you.
- Ask them what you can do to help them right now — encouragement can help increase motivation.
- Let your loved ones know you’re there for them whenever they’re ready to talk with you.
- Have patience, and allow extra time for your loved ones to gather their thoughts if they wish to speak with you.
What not to say
As we’ve seen with the term “schizophrenic”, saying the wrong thing causes a person with schizophrenia to react in a negative way.
Here are a few more things you should never say to someone with schizophrenia: