Schizophrenia is equally common in men and women, affecting about 1% of the population. 



Know the facts.

DEFINITION: Schizophrenia is a severe thought disorder. People with schizophrenia can experience false beliefs (delusions) and senses (hallucinations) that may interfere with a person’s ability to think clearly and sense the world the way others do.

Schizophrenia is NOT a split in personality.

The onset of symptoms usually starts between the ages of 16-30.

People with schizophrenia may have difficulty managing emotions, making good decisions, or relating to others. Symptoms can include psychotic episodes (breaks from reality) such as hallucinations or delusions. These can be very frightening to the person experiencing them, because they may have difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is not.

Hallucinations are false perceptions (senses).

  • Hallucinations are when a person might see, hear, taste, smell, or feel things that do not exist. Hallucinations are perceived as very real to the person, but are not actually there. Auditory hallucinations are the most common type. People hear voices that may order them to do certain tasks, warn them of false dangers or be critical of them. People who experience auditory hallucinations may talk or argue with the voices only they are hearing. Visual hallucinations may cause the person to see things that are not there.

Delusions are false beliefs

  • Paranoid delusions can cause people to falsely believe that others are spying on them or plotting to harm them.
  • Another example of a delusion is when a person believes they have a special mission, or that they have superpowers.
  • People who experience delusions may believe that an outside force is putting thoughts in their head.
  • They might believe that the television or Internet is directing special messages to them.
  • Delusions may also cause someone to believe that they are in communication with a historical figure.

Symptoms of schizophrenia:
A person with schizophrenia might...

  • have a flat affect (a person's face does not move or they talk in a dull or monotonous voice)
  • no longer enjoy pleasure in everyday life
  • lack the ability to begin and sustain planned activities
  • speak very little, even when forced to interact.
  • neglect their personal hygiene.
  • change their eating behavior (refuse to eat or eat unusually).
  • exhibit poor executive functioning (the ability to understand information and use it to make rational decisions).
  • have trouble focusing or paying attention.
  • have problems with working memory (the ability to use information immediately after learning it).
  • have trouble speaking rationally, using garbled speech, or making up words that others don't understand.

Medication can reduce the intensity, severity and frequency of psychotic symptoms (hallucinations and delusions).

Talk therapy can help people with the everyday challenges of the illness, such as communication, self-care, work and maintaining relationships.

With treatment, many people with schizophrenia can lead rewarding and meaningful lives.


  • Be mindful not to challenge a person’s hallucinations or delusions as they are very real to him/her.
  • Understand that people with schizophrenia are rarely violent. In fact they are more likely to become the victims of violence.
  • Understand that schizophrenia is not a personal weakness or flaw in personality or character. 


  • Educate yourself about the disorder.
  • Listen to your friend when they want to talk.
  • Keep checking in with your friend.
  • Use 1st person language. Say,
    “My friend has schizophrenia.” not “My friend is schizo.”
  • Reassure your friend of your support and understanding.

When someone is experiencing a hallucination...

  • Do not touch the person without their permission.
  • It is also very important NOT to challenge the person’s hallucinations or delusions. These are very real to the person who is experiencing them.
  • Instead, move the conversation to topics that you have in common.


  • “It’s not your fault.”
  • “I’m listening.”
  • “I am here for you.”
  • “It’s the illness that causes these thoughts and feelings.”
  • “This must be really difficult for you.”


  • “It’s all in your head.”
  • “What’s wrong with you?”
  • “Get over yourself, you have no reason to feel that way.”
  • “Shouldn’t you be better by now?”


  • ...tell a friend to “Snap out of it!”
  • ...diagnose.
  • ...gossip.
  • ...take your friend’s withdrawal personally.

Find additional information on our Mental Health Disorders page and other suggestions on our Understanding Stigma page >>

Can you answer these questions?

  1. What is the definition of schizophrenia?
  2. What is the definition of hallucinations?
  3. What is the definition of delusions?
  4. Give at least two examples of delusions and at least two examples of hallucinations.
  5. What treatments are available for people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia?
  6. What can you do to support someone who might be experiencing the symptoms of schizophrenia?
  7. How might stigma affect a person with schizophrenia?

*Hint: Read the SCHIZOPHRENIA facts at the top of this page to find the answers for 1-6. And view our Understanding Stigma page for question #7.



Schizophrenia symptoms
Tell Me About Schizophrenia
Top 10 Worst Symptoms of Schizophrenia


Know the facts.

Fact: While there is no known cure for schizophrenia, there are effective treatments.

Medications, talk therapies and support from family and friends can help people with schizophrenia lead successful and independent lives.  

- Adapted from Northeast Ohio Medical University

Fact: Early intervention can help!

The symptoms of schizophrenia typically begin at a crucial time for brain development (ages 16-30).

The symptoms of schizophrenia often derail that development, and early intervention may lead to better outcomes.    

- Adapted from

Fact: Studies indicate that people with schizophrenia who are in treatment are no more dangerous than the rest of the population.

Because one of the possible symptoms of schizophrenia is impaired judgment, people with schizophrenia are more likely to be victims of crimes.    

- Adapted from Active Minds at Baylor University

Fact: Schizophrenia is not a split personality. Rather, it is a thought disorder. The word "schizophrenia" comes from the Greek language (schizo = split and phrene = mind), describing fragmented thinking or split from reality.

- Adapted from and  Northeast Ohio Medical University

Fact: About one-fifth of people with schizophrenia have visual hallucinations, whereby they see things that no one else sees.

Auditory hallucinations (e.g., hearing voices) are more common, occurring in 70 percent of people with the disorder.

A few also experience tactile hallucinations or odd smells.

It is important not to challenge the person's hallucinations because they are very real to the person experiencing them.

- Adapted from Child Mind Institute  



It's OK to ask for help.
Talk to a trusted adult.

Visit and access the all new YouthWell Community Resources Directory. You will find youth behavioral health and wellness resources in this resource directory.

If you or someone you know has harmed themselves or is in immediate risk of harm CALL 911 immediately.

SAFTY ~ Safe Alternatives for Treating Youth 

  • 888-334-2777 - SAFTY is a mobile crisis response service available daily 8am-8pm, providing crisis intervention, phone, and in-home support, and linkage to mental health services. Available to all SB County youth, age 0-20, regardless of insurance or ability to pay. 

Crisis Text Line

  • Text SIGNS to 741741 for 24/7, anonymous, free crisis counseling.
    Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, providing access to free, 24/7 support and information via text. A live, trained Crisis Counselor receives the text and responds quickly.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

  • 1-800-273-TALK (8255)  or  ONLINE LIVE CHAT
    24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Your call is routed to the nearest crisis center in the national network of 150+ crisis center

Learning about mental health is the first step to wellness. The Mental Wellness Center (MWC) can help families find medical and professional care, as well as teach important skills on how to manage your mental health. Many families in our community have teenagers who are struggling with depression, anxiety, ADHD and other mental health issues. It can be overwhelming as a parent to find support for your teenager and difficult to talk about these issues. The MWC is focused on providing a safe and confidential space for families to connect with others, access community resources and get the support your family needs.


Keeping Connected Group
Come discuss life, work on communication and social skills and enjoy time with your peers! This weekly group brings together teens, 14-18, to learn emotion management in a fun, safe and confidential place. Learn and practice self-management skills for better self-regulation. Drop-ins are welcome.

Wellness Connection Program
The Wellness Connection is a high school leadership program of the Mental Wellness Center that educates, empowers, and engages students. Students raise awareness and reduce stigma around mental health by promoting self-care, connection, kindness, education, prevention, and outreach amongst their peers.

In Fall of 2020, the Wellness Connection welcomed more than 50 local high school students to their leadership council from high schools throughout Santa Barbara County.

To learn more about the Wellness Connection Program at the Mental Wellness Center, visit

Mental Health Matters • 6th & 9th GRADE CLASSES
MHM teaches basic facts about mental health to sixth and ninth grade students in the classroom. Instructors talk about stigma and how it affects our perceptions of mental illness and taking care of ourselves. Students learn the facts, including symptoms and warning signs, of specific mental health disorders.


SPOT (Support for Parents of Teens and Adolescents)
Mom Group - Meets Mondays at 10:00 AM (Spanish Group), Tuesdays at 12:00 PM (for moms) and Wednesdays at 6:30 PM (for all caregivers).

SPOT is a safe space for caregivers of teens and young adults to connect with other caregivers who might also be struggling in parenting a child with mental health challenges. We listen, support, and gain perspective in what is in our control and what is not. Facilitated discussion on emotional intelligence, coping strategies, and mindfulness is all incorporated during our time together.

For more information and to participate in SPOT, please contact Mental Wellness Center Family Advocate, Ramona Winner, at: 805-884-8440 ext. 3206, You must contact Ramona first to receive ZOOM link. If you are interested in joining the SPOT Spanish Group for Moms, please contact Isis Castaneda at: 805-448-0920.

Family Advocate
The MWC Family Advocate can assist families and provide assistance in understanding and navigating the local public and private mental health systems, help identify various clinical and support services available in our community and provide one-on-one support in times of crisis. 805.884.8440 x3206


Mental Health First Aid, Youth Mental Health First Aid, Teen Mental Health First Aid
This 8-hour course is offered monthly at the MWC and teaches participants how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. It also teaches an action plan to use in a psychiatric emergency. This course can be customized and provided on-site in schools and organizations. For more information visit

NAMI Santa Barbara County

Family-to-Family Educational Classes
This 8-week course (in English and Spanish) helps families better understand how their family member experiences their illness, how to best support the recovery process and how to better cope with the impact on the entire family. Contact the MWC Family Advocate to inquire or reserve a place in the next series. 805-884-8440 x3206

4th Thursday Speaker Presentations
NAMI Santa Barbara County offers free monthly presentations with dynamic speakers on topics of local interest related to mental health. Visit to learn more and see a full listing of NAMI Santa Barbara County offerings including upcoming groups and classes.


The Mental Wellness Center (MWC) lending library provides books for independent learning available for loan to MWC clients and their families.

The collection covers a wide variety of topics related to mental health and wellness and contains books on a range of mental health disorders including ADD/ADHD, anxiety disorders, bipolar mood disorder, depression, eating disorders, and schizophrenia. Materials on client and family coping and survival strategies, drug abuse in dual diagnosis, and suicide are also available. You will also find a limited selection of materials on psychopharmacology, memoirs, some relevant fiction, and a small collection of books written for children and teens.

The MWC Library Online Catalog is available for free online, click the button below to access. Simply input “MWC Library” as the library name, no password is required.


You may check out the library collection during MWC open hours or formal meeting periods. Contact your Support Group Facilitator to register as a library patron and obtain information on library procedures.