The theme of this year's World Mental Health Day, on 10 October, is "living with schizophrenia". The condition is associated with a loss of boundaries between the self and non-self, and is often described as a state of dreaming while awake. Symptoms including hallucinations, hearing voices, and a blunting of emotions that can leave you feeling cut off and extremely agitated.
But there are a number of positive, proactive steps that you can take to help minimise the condition's impact on your life. removed Lesley A shares ten tips on how people living with schizophrenia can lead a more positive lifestyle:
Get educated – find out all you can about living with schizophrenia so you can give yourself the best chance of managing it.
The first thing to know is that the stigma around mental health in general, and schizophrenia specifically, is gradually reducing and it's vital to ask for help when you need it. Mental illness is not your fault and it's likely you will not be ill all the time. People usually find that they experience a range of symptoms and have degrees of feeling well and less well over time.
It sounds boring, but it really is true that good diet, regular exercise and proper sleep can make the world of difference to people living with schizophrenia.
Keep stress down to a minimum. Reduce the number of responsibilities where possible, use relaxation techniques and learn to identify when things are getting too much. Try to make time to do the things you enjoy, to keep stress at bay.
Medical options are tailored to the individual situation and symptoms, so it's really important that people with schizophrenia work with their doctors to manage their illness. What you should avoid is 'tweaking' your medication or taking it other than as prescribed. If you have side effects or you feel your medication isn't working, talk to your doctor straight away.
If you are in work, you need to let your employer know what's going on with you. You are protected under the Equality Act and you can ask for 'reasonable adjustments' to help you in the workplace.
Keeping your social life going is vital in managing schizophrenia, so seeing your family and friends as much as possible will help you stay connected to things. A trusted friend or relative can often spot the signs that you are becoming unwell and alert you – they can be part of a 'buddy' system to alert you to the signs you are not coping. Your friends and family can also help you plan for a crisis; knowing that there is a plan for the times when you can't cope helps to reduce stress and lets you get on with your life.
It can be difficult to remember new names and faces, so it's important to try not to stress about this and even use humour if you want to. Just do your best; most people are forgiving. The more interested you are in new people, the easier it is to remember them. It's important to allow others to have their view and opinions – this is not an attack or denial of anything you may be thinking or feeling – it's just a different position.
Some people receive a special kind of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which has been adapted for use with the symptoms of schizophrenia. Other people prefer different kinds of counselling and psychotherapy to help them manage day-to-day.
Awareness of ourselves and what's going on around us is helpful and healthy for everyone, and especially for those living with schizophrenia, so mindfulness training can be really useful when times become difficult. If you are mindful you are in touch with the world around you, aware of your body, and less likely to be solely pre-occupied with what's going on just in your head. This, together with socialising regularly with family and friends, is a powerful step in helping you manage how you live with schizophrenia.