BACKGROUND We developed and evaluated a comprehensive, ongoing intervention for families of schizophrenic patients appropriate for China's complex family relationships and unique social environment.
METHOD Sixty-three DSM-III-R schizophrenic patients living with family members were enrolled when admitted to hospital and randomly assigned to receive standard care or a family-based intervention that included monthly 45-minute counselling sessions focused on the management of social and occupational problems, medication management, family education, family group meetings, and crisis intervention.
RESULTS At 6, 12, and 18-month follow-ups by blind evaluators, the proportion of subjects rehospitalised was lower, the duration of rehospitalisation was shorter, and the duration of employment was longer in the experimental group than in the control group; these differences were statistically significant at the 12 and 18-month follow-ups and were not explained by differences in drug compliance. Family intervention was associated with significantly lower levels of family burden.
CONCLUSIONS This intervention is less costly than standard treatment, is suitable for urban families of schizophrenic patients in China and feasible given the constraints of the Chinese mental health system.