Supporting Loved Ones With a Mental Illness

Do you have a family member or loved one who has a mental illness?

Caring for a family member, partner or friend with a mental illness can be challenging. Your involvement could range from providing support in everyday living, like helping with meals and taking the person to their appointments, to simply being someone to listen and lean on.

Regardless of how involved the caregiving, research has shown that supporting a loved one with mental illness takes a toll on the caregiver. They report experiencing burden, grief and their own wellbeing difficulties such as depression, anxiety and troubles with sleep.

When we love someone who is struggling, we can focus all our energy on supporting that person, and forget to take care of ourselves. Following these simple steps may help to find a better balance.

Make time for yourself. Remember that you cannot effectively support anyone if you are burned out. Go for a walk, watch a movie, engage in a hobby, see some friends or organise a respite service.

Take care of your basic needs. Make sure you are getting the nutrition, sleep and exercise you need to feel well.

Set some boundaries. Discuss what you are willing and not willing to do for the person who is ill. Sometimes it can be hard to step back and follow through with boundaries, but this is also an important part of the person’s growth and recovery.

Make a plan. Sometimes people suffering with mental illness can have an exacerbation in symptoms. Make a plan for when this happens, including what to look out for, what you can do to help, and who you can contact. Having a plan can reduce the anxiety of caregiving.

Educate yourself. Mental illness can be confusing and confronting. Sometimes people feel guilty that they may have caused their loved one’s struggles. It is important to try to understand the disorder, symptoms and development to reduce self blame. Take a course, read credible books or articles, or see a mental health professional for more information.

Seek help for your own wellbeing. Supporting someone with mental illness can be stressful and impact on how you are getting along. Talk to a friend, a support group, or a psychologist to keep you on track.

Supporting a loved one with mental illness can be a challenging and overwhelming, but it can also be an incredibly rewarding journey. Along the way it may be helpful to reach out for support and guidance. Creating Change Psychology and Counselling provide treatment for people experiencing mental illness, and can assist you. Contact us today for support or to set up an appointment.

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