How To Help a Friend

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

My friend apparently has Schizophrenia, and her ‘other half’ keeps doing horrible things to her. She’s hurting herself daily. I have no idea how to help her anymore without bringing in the authorities. I’ve tried to convince “Seri” (Her other half) to stop, and I have not managed to do so. How can I help her, and stop this from happening anymore?

A. The reality is that your friend needs more help than you are able to provide. She needs professional help immediately. Below are some ideas that you may find helpful:

  • Consider talking to her parents. Be honest about your concerns. I know this may be a difficult challenge but given the fact that she feels compelled to harm herself (i.e. an urge that is seemingly not within her control) it may be necessary to prevent her from further self-harm.

  • Consider talking to your parents. Do your parents know that you are dealing with a very difficult situation? If not, they should be informed. Your parents may be able to help you. They may be able to give you advice or offer to speak to your friend’s parents.
  • If none of the aforementioned options are feasible, do not hesitate to call the authorities if you believe that she may harm herself. Many communities also have mobile crisis teams. Usually the phone numbers to the local mobile crisis team can be found on their behavioral health website or in the white pages of the phone book. The crisis team can come to your friend’s home and perform an evaluation onsite. They can determine whether or not she requires treatment in a hospital.
  • Speak to the school guidance counselor when school begins or another trusted adult. They may also be able to speak to your friend’s parents about the seriousness of the situation.
  • Give your friend the phone number to the suicide helpline: 800-237-8255. Instruct her to call this number if she becomes overwhelmed or upset. Encourage her to call 911 if she feels that she may harm herself.

In the meantime, you should continually encourage your friend to seek professional help or speak to her parents. Try to reassure her that getting help is the right choice. Assure her that you will help her, to the best of your ability, throughout the help-seeking process. I would also highly recommend getting help from your parents. This is a serious situation and you should not be attempting to handle it on your own.

Lastly, I want to clarify what schizophrenia is and what it is not. Schizophrenia is a serious mental health condition in which an individual experiences such symptoms as delusions, hallucinations and paranoia. It affects approximately 1 to 2 percent of the United States population. One common myth about the disorder is that people with schizophrenia have split personalities, like the famous fictional characters Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This myth is completely inaccurate. People with schizophrenia do not have more than one personality.

Related to this is the common misconception that schizophrenia is dissociative identity disorder (DID), known formerly as multiple personality disorder (MDD). Many people confuse schizophrenia with DID. One of the main reasons that these two disorders are so often confused is that the presence of one or many personalities appears to the onlooker as delusional. People with DID typically do not have delusions, hallucinations or paranoia, while these symptoms are very common in schizophrenia.

I hope your friend is able to get the help that she needs. Please take care.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 1 Aug 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). How To Help a Friend. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/08/01/how-to-help-a-friend/