August 4, 2014

Families with Mental Illness

Mental Illness is complicated and multi-faceted. There is no one reason why a loved one develops a mental illness. Mental Illness is the result of many different factors working together such as genetics, stress, environment, biology and life experiences. Those struggling with mental illness require support and respectful management of self-care and medical care.

As well as providing love and support to promote your loved one’s wellness and recovery, you also often need to support with practical needs such as administering medication, helping with daily tasks, monitoring symptoms and accompanying to medical appointments. Because of this time, effort and energy to care for someone else, even someone you love, at times you may feel angry, resentful, sad or exhausted, as well as having genuinely loving, enjoyable family moments. Having a whole range of emotions about caring for your loved one with mental illness is normal. It can sometimes feel overwhelming to care for another person so completely, while still trying to find time to care for yourself and enjoy your own life.That’s why it is crucially important that you have a plan to take care of yourself.

Here are some tips to think about from the Canadian Mental Health Association:

  1. Accept your own feelings and know that you are not alone. It is natural to feel many different emotions when a loved one is diagnosed with a mental illness. Other people experience the same challenges and complicated mix of emotions, just like you. Let yourself feel whatever you need to feel.
  2. Learn more. Take time to learn more about mental illness. This will give you a better understanding of your loved one’s experiences and ehlp you see what they  may be going through. You can find reliable information online, through provincial or territorial health services and through community organizations.
  3. Stay connected. Embarrassment, social stigma and fear can stop many family members from seeking help when a loved one is diagnosed with a mental illness. But that can isolate you at a time when you need the most support from others. Talk to trusted friends and family and let them know what you’re experiencing. If you aren’t sure where to go, try connecting with a community organization.
  4. Join a support group. Support groups are good places to share your experiences, learn from others and connect with people who understand what you’re going through. To find a local support group, contact a local community mental health organization like the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). CMHA has branches all over Canada that offer a range of services that can help.
  5. Take time for yourself. If you are caring for a loved one, your responsibilities may use up your physical and emotional energy. It’s important to take time for yourself. It can help you recharge and five you a more balanced perspective toward any challenges you experience. Schedule opportunities that allow you to relax, have fund and get away so you can come back to your loved one with a healthier outlook. You can’t care for someone else of you haven’t care for yourself first.
  6. Seek help for yourself. Caring for a loved one who is unwell can be stressful. Long periods of stress can lead to mental health or substance use problems. Seek help if you find your own well-being slipping, and encourage family members to seek help if they need it. Mental illness can also have a big impact on family relationships. It’s a good idea to seek counselling for the entire family.
  7. Develop coping strategies for challenging behaviours. There may be times when a loved one shows strange or challenging behaviours that can make you feel confused, embarrassed or scared. This can happen in public or in private. It’s best to talk with your loved one’s care team for strategies to manage challenging situations. Here are some tips:
    1. Learn more about your options
    2. Plan the best strategies for the situation.
    3. Understand that this is not personal.
    4. Realize that some behaviours may be beyond your loved one’s control. They may be as distressing to them as they are to you.
    5. Tell your loved one and their care team what behaviours you aren’t willing to tolerate. You have rights too. You never have to tolerate dangerous or abusive behaviour.

If you need more help –

Contact a community organization like the Canadian Mental Health Association –