6. Empowering yourself through support and self-care

Serena’s story

LorenzoLorenzo is a 21-year-old university student living with his mother and younger brother. Recently, Lorenzo’s family has noticed that he is not behaving like his usual self. He seems to be very agitated and angry. He has been pacing the house, not sleeping at night, not eating, talking quickly and suspicious of his mother and brother. The other day, he began throwing out all of his and his brother’s belongings, saying things are infected.


Serena, Lorenzo’s mother, is extremely worried about Lorenzo. When his symptoms began, he was in the middle of his studies and hasn’t been able to complete the year. He also used to give her a ride to work every day but hasn’t been able to for a while. He is refusing to seek help, so she’s unsure what to do.


Serena Serena: “I can’t understand what’s happening. He used to be so active and productive. I’m so worried about him and his future. He used to drive me to work, and since he’s been unwell, I’ve been late to work because I’ve been taking the bus. He also used to help with our monthly rent, so we’re impacted financially too. I keep telling him to see our family doctor, but he refuses to go. I’m feeling totally distraught.”


After thoroughly assessing him, Lorenzo’s doctor prescribes him risperidone 2 mg. The doctor focuses on the symptoms that Lorenzo is experiencing. He tells Lorenzo that the medication will help him clear his thoughts, focus better and sleep better. Lorenzo agrees to take the medication. The doctor also suggests a psychoeducation group for Lorenzo, and a families group that is run out of a local health centre for Serena and Leo.


Lorenzo has been taking his medications and seems to be improving slowly. Serena bought new towels and Lorenzo has stopped throwing them out, although at times he does voice suspicious thoughts. One evening, Lorenzo and his mother Serena are eating dinner at a local restaurant. Lorenzo says, “We need to leave. All the servers are looking at me.” Serena responds, “It sounds like you feel very uncomfortable. I know this is hard. Let me finish my dinner quickly, and then we can go.”


Serena has been feeling completely overwhelmed. Preparing meals for the family, helping her younger son with his homework, doing the housework and commuting, along with concerns about Lorenzo, have made it hard for her to sleep and now her back is sore. Ensuring that Lorenzo takes his medications and worrying about his future has taken a toll on her. She decides to visit her family physician, who encourages her to sleep well, eat well and seek other supports.

SerenaSerena considers her doctor’s advice. She resumes visits to her local church and reaches out to her sister for help. She attends the psychoeducation group for families, which she finds helpful. She sees the value in listening and talking to others who are in similar situations.

Her sister has been helpful in helping with chores around the house, and friends at her church have helped by bringing meals over. Serena is also making time to meditate in the evenings. She finds that she is able to sleep better, which has given her more energy to participate in Lorenzo’s recovery.