How online educational approaches can support the families of people with psychosis

Dr Juliana Onwumere is lead educator on the free online course, “Caring for People with Psychosis and Schizophrenia.” Here she discusses how online educational approaches, designed for the family and friends of people with psychotic disorders, can have an important role to play in improving outcomes.

Fear, stigma and confusion means that people with psychosis often rely on close others, such as parents, a partner or siblings.

Fear, stigma and confusion means that people with psychosis often rely on close others, such as parents, a partner or siblings.

When a person first develops a psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia, their social networks and friendships are adversely affected. Social networks plummet and the social world of the person with psychosis can become very small, comprising only a handful of close others, such as parents, a partner or siblings.

Several factors can contribute to this, including fear, stigma, and the sheer confusion of others, about how best to understand and respond to confusing and distressing illness experiences, such as hallucinations and delusions.

Supporting the families of individuals with psychosis

In recognition of the many difficulties faced by families, treatment guidelines in different countries across the globe, including the UK and USA, recommend offering educational support to the families of individuals with psychosis. These educational interventions are designed to promote a better understanding of the illness, as well as the use of helpful strategies, which can improve coping, and reduce the negative impact a psychotic illness can have on families and friendships.

But meeting these recommendations is a challenge, particularly at times when services and organisations have reduced resources, and when families themselves may have little time available in their day-to-day lives, as they deal with parallel challenges, such as working and caring for other family members.

Digital innovations have overlooked families

In recent months and years, digital innovations in mental health – including the provision of online therapy and the development of phone apps to monitor moods – have increased in popularity. However, it would be fair to argue that digital developments seem to have overlooked the information needs of families of people with psychosis. Families can still find themselves writing into newspapers for advice.

Overlooking families seems unfortunate, given recently released evidence from a survey of families of people with severe mental health problems in 22 countries. This highlighted that 90% want opportunities to share knowledge about the illness with other families.

New online educational interventions can help

Online educational interventions – like “Caring for People with Psychosis and Schizophrenia” – have the potential to offer cost- and time-effective approaches to sharing relevant information and new developments with large numbers of families on a global stage, and supporting their learning and knowledge acquisition together, as a group.

Over 21 million people worldwide are living with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Having the support of families and friends can improve outcomes and help with recovery. However, family and friends have support needs too.

Supporting families with their understanding of the illness can positively impact on their wellbeing and the outcomes of the relatives they care for.

If you care for someone with a psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia, the free online course “Caring for People with Psychosis and Schizophrenia” will provide opportunities to share your views and experiences with carers from around the world. You can join the course now or join the conversation using #FLpsychosis.

Category Learning

Comments (19)


  • Janice Wells

    Annabel’s schizophrenia’s story


    My daughter (Annabel) suffered schizophrenia for 5 years. I had no idea what was happening and didn’t know where to turn for help. It was hard then because I really didn’t understand the symptoms earlier until she was diagnosed. There was a time she decided to get away from everyone, I was not excluded. I had to sit and cry almost every day because I felt helpless as a single mother (she is all I have got). The anguish I went through taking care of her alone is beyond explanation because there was no support of whatsoever from the dad or family members. I fought for proper medical care and humane treatment; I did everything within my reach to get her cured but all to no avail. Countless different medications was prescribed (Zyprexa, fluphenazine, Risperdal, quetiapine, etc.) that she was taking but all we could get was myriad of side effects such as rigidity, drowsiness, dizziness, tremors and restlessness which tends to worsen the already damaged situation. until I checked:

  • Tina Kalin

    So wrapt I can finally have a more knowledgeable understanding and to be better equipped in handling the emotional roller coaster of this journey, the last year I have experienced this with some one i love dearly, it will be nice to help me in this journey.

  • Kiran

    This is a very interesting course. Me, my dad and my boyfreind have schizophrenia. We struggle alot with motivation issues. There was a course on motivation and dopamine. Anti-psychotics reduce dopamine levels significantly. To a negative to counteract psychosis. How do we overcome this dilemma?

  • Pascale

    Many thanks for this course which i am glad to have found. As a parent of a person going through psychosis and considering how important such a course is for carers, I was wondering if past course material could be accesable on the site, so that the information is available when it really matters? Is this an option FutureLearn and Dr Juliana Onwumere would consider?

  • Robert Wade

    This is being promoted in New South Wales, Australia, by SANE Australia. Mitchell Barbieri was 15 when his mum Fiona developed her first episode of chronic paranoid schizophrenia. Within 2 years he was psychotic with her persecutory delusions and thought disorder: folie a deux known to science since 1877. Police were called after violence with their neighbours: police broke in, Mitchell immediately stabbed one of them to death. He is doing 35y in gaol, his mother 10y. Except for her psychosis, all this was preventable. Their tragedy is much censored including by mental health advocacy organisations.

    Does your course WARN about folie a deux?

  • steven Tiyesere Kanthiti

    This course will assist me a lot learn and understand, students life

  • steven Tiyesere Kanthiti

    schizophrenia is really a problem in many learning institutions in Africa, in particular Malawi, many students suffer lost of reality as this is seen in the way students handle assignments and social life related issues.

  • Mavis

    Hi, I really hope this course helps me to understand and help my son who has suffered from psychosis since he was 15 years old. Now he is an adult he does not have to involve us in his diagnosis and treatment so it can be difficult to know how best to assist him.

  • Naz

    Looking forward to learning more about the illness for young adults. Do raging hormones affect the symptoms of the illness, particularly during the later stages of puberty?

  • Kay O'Connor

    I am really excited about this course, having experienced my daughter struggle with this illness for over 20 years. I’m encouraged by the efforts to break through stigma and silence and I look forward to hearing about current studies and understanding.

  • John Middleton

    Does this course address the situation when a person does not acknowledge his/her psychotic condition and refuses to take prescribed medications or return to a therapist? I am sole carer for a spouse in that situation.

    • michelle

      Hi John , I dont know the answer to your question, but I was told that not acknowledging the illness it part of the symptoms of Schizophrenia. Can you can get your partner sectioned under the mental health Act if you live in the UK , once sectioned the patient can not refuse treatment. Once treatment is given sometimes this alone has a positive effect on the patient and the penny drops as the symptoms go away. It is not easy but this is what happened to my son recently , he has gone un diagnosed and we have suffered as a family trying to cope with his Psychosis alone with no mental health treatment.. Stay strong for your partner help is available ( sooner rather than later ) you might have to fight to get the help , but dont stop trying as there is some fabulous medication available these days and you can get your partner back and recovered/stable from this horrible illness. xx

    • Diede

      Hello John,
      our youngest son, now thirty, suffers from schizophrenia. Since he is on clozapine medication his condition has improved greatly, along with insight. This however is not complete.
      The insights and reasoning of dr. Xavier Amador (psychologist) I found to be particularly helpful in this respect. One of his books is ‘I’m Right, You’re Wrong, Now What?’ It sounds like this retorical question reflects your situation. If you google for Xavier Amador you will find much more useful information.

    • Peter Holland

      Hi John,
      I am hoping that the course will cover this topic. I have my eldest daughter in precisely this situation. She is a long term sufferer and has had one stay in hospital and since that time has a deep distrust and abhors the medical profession and just refuses to see any of them. I have tried everything to try and reason with her which generally ends in a argument, but to no avail.


    Hi Juliana Onwumere what happened to my statement of participated of psychosis and schizophrenia after paid for it, I didn’t received the order what happened please

  • Sarah

    I am also already registered and would like to start the course…

  • Mark

    I already registered for this course. I am in Australia. What time (London time?) and how can I start this first week? Mark

  • mina girgis

    I need learn english

  • Illeana

    I think this comment is true, because when you get schizophrenia you cant talk in front of the people, and that s why several people don´t go to the college and they can´t get a social lifes how they want. To get a course online its a good opportunity for them and really they can changes their perspective about it. The are more comfortable and relaxing.