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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What should I do if I suspect that my child has schizophrenia?

    My 20 year old daughter has been displaying extremely unusual behaviour lately and claims to hear voices. I am very worried but unsure how I should approach the situation. What are the appropriate steps I should take?
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    Marcia Costello

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    I am a Clinical Psychologist with over 25 years experience in working with adults, adolescents, children, couples and families. I work by meeting you where … View Profile

    Your daughter is in a higher age risk group for a first episode of schizophrenia (17- 25years), especially if she has experienced a recent stressful event. Sometimes the onset of Schizophrenia occurs after a person has been experimenting with illegal drugs, but only for those people with a genetically vulnerable predisposition. There may be a family history of mental health problems which is also a risk factor for the diagnosis in other family members.  However there are only about 1% of the population who are diagnosed wtih schizophrenia. If she is hearing voices and acting erratically, this is a good reason to be concerned, especially if these voices do “not make sense,” when she talks about them and she does not accept feedback about her behaviour from you and she is very withdrawn. There are a number of symptoms required before a diagnosis of Schizophrenia , would be made by a qualified Psychiatrist. These  symptoms would include: problems with self care, daily routines, hygiene, ability to communicate with others, flat affect, irritability and unusual behaviour. If these symptoms are happening it would be good to contact your daughter's General Practitioner to assess her symptoms. The GP is likely to discuss the situation with you and your daughter, review her level of safety at present and decide on a course of action, such as to refer her to a Psychiatrist for speciliazed assessment. Alternatively the GP may refer you to an Adult Mental Health Service in your area for an assessment and if necessary prescribe medication and a hospital admission. This is a very challenging condition to manage for the patient and carers. All  Australian states have organizations to support carers in this situation: ARAFMI ( Australian Relative and Friends of the Mentally ill).

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    I have been working in Eltham, Melbourne as a relationship and family counsellor for over twelve years. I draw on current theory and research about … View Profile

    As Marcia has suggested, the first step would be to see your GP and obtain a referral to a psychiatrist. Another service that may provide a useful first step is Headspace ( a mental health service specific to young people) who can conduct an initial assessment and have GPs and psychiatrists available on a bulk-billing basis (that is, medicare will cover these consultations with no additional fee to be paid by you). Headspace can also faciliate referrals to other appropriate services (such as Orygen if you live in Victoria - a mental health service for young people that specializes in early intervention for psychosis, which includes symptoms such as hearing voices). If you google Headspace you will be able to find the one that is closest to where you live - these are provided all around Australia.

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