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Living With Schizophrenia Patients Can Actually Benefit Families, Study

Update Date: May 03, 2013 10:56 AM EDT

Living with patients with schizophrenia can actually have a positive impact on their family, according to new research.

Lead researcher Rachel Morton from Queensland University of Technology interviewed family members of people with schizophrenia to understand the impact schizophrenia has on the family. 

"Family members frequently reported that the nature of schizophrenia meant their relative required a range of support, including financial, social, and assistance in getting treatment, all of which were reported to take a large emotional toll on the family members themselves," Morton said in a news release.  "It was common for people to report frustration with some mental health professionals and systems."

"However, a unique finding of this study was the reporting of some unexpected positive personal growth experienced as a result of the challenges of living with someone with schizophrenia," she said.

Morton explained that most family members reported that having a relative with schizophrenia helped their own personal development.  Researchers found that these people developed greater compassion for those with mental health issues and gained greater appreciation for what is important in their life.

One participant told researchers that living with someone with schizophrenia had influenced their own career choice to become a health professional.  Another participants credited living with someone with schizophrenia as giving their life meaning.

"So even if it's been a disadvantage that my son has this mental illness, it's also been enriching in that my life is not just empty, meaningless. I've got purpose," the participant said, according to researcher.

Morton said the next step is to conduct a worldwide survey to see if the phenomenon of experiencing benefits and personal growth is common across a wider cross-section of families living with schizophrenia patients.

"I want to investigate this issue more widely and further explore the stress they feel and how family members cope with this stress," she said.

"This survey is important because family members often get forgotten when health professionals are dealing with people with schizophrenia," Morton explained. "This research will help clinicians and health care professionals better treat people with schizophrenia and effectively support their families."

Researchers are now looking for volunteers over the age of 16, who have a first degree family member with schizophrenia and who have lived with that person at some point during their diagnosis, to take part in the new online survey.

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