If you’re seeking help for someone with mental illness, you may start by seeing his or her family doctor or a general practitioner. However, in some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred immediately to a psychiatrist.
It’s a good idea to prepare for the appointment. Here’s some information to help you.
What you can do
Write down any symptoms your loved one is experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
Make a list of medications, vitamins and supplements that he or she is taking.
Go with your loved one to the appointment. Getting the information firsthand will help you know what you’re facing and what you need to do for your loved one.
Write down questions to ask the doctor.
Preparing a list of questions ahead of time will help you make the most of your time with the doctor. For schizophrenia, some basic questions to ask include:
What is likely causing the symptoms or condition?
Other than the most likely cause, what are other possible causes for the symptoms or condition?
What kinds of tests are needed?
Is this condition likely temporary or chronic?
What is the best course of action?
What are the alternatives to the primary approach you’re suggesting?
How can I be most helpful and supportive?
Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What Web sites do you recommend visiting?
In addition to the questions that you’ve prepared to ask the doctor, don’t hesitate to ask questions during the appointment anytime you don’t understand something.
What to expect from the doctor
The doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including:
When did your loved one first begin experiencing symptoms?
Have symptoms been continuous or occasional?
Has your loved one talked about suicide?
How is your loved one functioning in daily life — is he or she eating regularly, going to work or school, bathing regularly?
What you can do in the meantime
If your loved one talks of suicide, isn’t attending to basic needs, such as eating, bathing, and so on, or becomes violent, seek immediate help. If your loved one is violent, don’t try to subdue him or her yourself.