The opinions of relatives of patients with schizophrenia about the causes, treatments, and psychosocial consequences of this disorder can influence its course and outcome.
In 2003, the Italian Psychiatric Association has promoted a study on family psychoeducational interventions to explore the effectiveness of this intervention on relatives' opinions and beliefs about mental illness.
In each of the 10 Italian mental health services selected for the study, 30 patients with schizophrenia and 30 relatives were randomly recruited to receive the experimental intervention or the standard care.
The experimental intervention consisted of 12 manual-based informative sessions on the main aspects of schizophrenia. Each relative was asked to fill in the self-reported Relatives' Questionnaire on the Opinions About Mental Illness.
The treated sample included 107 patients and 112 relatives, the control group consisted of 105 patients and 118 relatives. Stress, traumas, heredity and family difficulties were most frequently mentioned as determinants of the disorder in both groups. Relatives' opinions about patients' civil rights and social competence improved at the end of the intervention. In particular, the right to get married, to have children and to vote increased at the end of the intervention. Moreover, the opinions that patients with schizophrenia are unpredictable and that are kept aloof from others decreased at the end of the intervention.
The results of our study confirm that relatives of patients with schizophrenia should be provided with psychoeducational interventions, particularly in Italy where patients most rely on their relatives, who are in close contact with mental health professionals