Making the decision to care for someone a with mental illness is a huge commitment.
While caring for someone is fulfilling and rewarding, it can be emotionally draining and physically demanding.
Before deciding to take on the role of carer make sure you know what is involved and how it will impact your family and your life. Talk to people caring for someone with a mental illness to find out the truth. Also consider if you will you need financial or emotional assistance if you take on the role.
Find out all you can about their illness and prepare to always be honest with them. But most importantly, will you have the time to look after yourself? Remember, you cannot care for someone if you are not in good health.
Before you make a decision there are some things you should know.
How mental illness affects families
Often when mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety disorders begin it can negatively impact the family. It causes tension, emotional highs and lows, uncertainty and changes the lives and dynamics of your family. But the effects are different for every family and how it impacts your family depends on the type of mental illness someone has.
This means that family members can take on the role of carer with little understanding of how to help or support or how to take care of their own needs.
Here are some tips to help you care for someone with a mental illness.
Come to terms with mental illness
To start with develop a positive, practical approach to someone you care for who has a mental illness. Remember, suffering with a mental illness is hard for a person who is trying to deal with it too.
Come to terms with the mental illness of the person you want to help. This can be difficult when you feel a sense of loss and grief when the personality of a person you love changes. Acknowledge and discuss how you feel.
Preparing yourself to help
Make sure the person you want to help has a medical diagnosis and learn all you can about their mental health condition. This will give you insight into how you can help.
Talk to medical professionals and to your family about how you can assist. There may be things beyond your ability to offer so seek other ways to provide the assistance someone needs so they get the best care.
Find a balance
You need to find a balance between what you can and cannot do to help. You also need to find a balance between:
- the time you spend helping someone, the rest of your life and the people in it
- accepting how a mental illness affects someone and how they expect to recover
- helping someone and allowing them to do things themselves
- becoming too involved yet letting them know how much you care
- having unrealistic expectations of what they can achieve and supporting them to help themselves.
Skills you need to help someone with a mental health condition
Caring for someone with a mental health condition is not easy as it can affect all parts of their life. Instead of guessing what someone needs, the following suggestions can help you:
- Action in a crisis situation. Firstly, if they are having thoughts of suicide, harming themselves or treat others aggressively you need emergency help. This is vital. Contact their mental health professional or call us immediately for urgent help. We can assist in dispelling thoughts of suicide quickly and are available 24/7. Have an action plan for when someone reaches crisis point and make sure crisis numbers are easily accessible.
- Show compassion. Help them help themselves and show compassion. People with mental illness can find it difficult to deal with every day life including looking after their home and self-care. Encourage them to become more involved. Start small such as putting on makeup and going out together for a coffee. Work up to helping them keep their personal space in order and getting their life back on track.
- Understanding how they feel. Encourage social interaction. Interacting socially can be the last thing someone with a mental health condition can face. Show you understand how they feel. They can often even ignore phone calls as they just do not want to have contact with anyone. But encourage social interaction. Help them join a support group, take them shopping or out for a meal.
- Communication is key. Talk to them about how they feel and how their illness makes you feel. Communication is vital when trying to help someone with a mental health condition. Talk to your family and friends about your feelings. It can be draining helping someone in this position so encourage family and friends to talk with them too.
- Advance planning. There will be times when you are not available to provide care so have an advance plan for these times. Talk to the person you care for, their mental health professionals and your family to ensure there is a backup plan for when you are not available.
Strategies to help you connect
It is important to have strategies to help you to connect with someone when they are not coping with their mental illness. Here are a few:
- let them know you are there to help and care for them
- always be honest and direct while remaining polite to build trust
- treat them with respect and dignity
- listen to how they feel without being judgemental
- invite them to talk about what they feel is their problem
- avoid physical contact unless they ask for a hug
- encourage them to talk to their mental health professional
- talk to someone yourself if it all becomes too much.
Take care of yourself
It is vital that you take time out to care for yourself and other family members too. After all, you cannot help someone else if you need help yourself. Here are some things that will help you:
- Regularly take time out. It is important for your own health that you regularly take time out from your role as a carer. Make the time to do the things you enjoy and do not forget to socialise with family and friends. And, if you need, ask for respite care so you can get a much needed break.
- Do not take on too much. Do not run yourself into the ground by taking on too much yourself. It will only leave you feeling stressed and depressed. Recognise when there are things you cannot do. Be realistic and have a plan in place to cover what you cannot do. Your family and friends deserve your time as well.
- Practice mindfulness. Practice mindfulness to help you reconnect with the present moment. This will keep you grounded. It helps to ward off depression and anxiety when the going gets tough caring for a person with a mental illness. This will give you balance in your life and helps you find joy and happiness in the simple things in life.
- Talk about your feelings. Caring for someone can be stressful. It is important you do not bottle up how you feel especially when you feel frustrated or it all gets too much. Talk about your feelings with loved ones and friends or a counsellor to get you back on track.
Caring for someone with a mental illness is tough. When you need time out or are not coping, contact us to find out how we can help get your life back on track. But, if you or the person you are caring for is at crisis point, call us immediately. We can help you quickly deal with things better. We can work with you in our Spas, over the phone or via Skype. Book in today for my Emotional Empowerment Program. I have an introductory offer for just $79 so you can start taking back control of your life. We can support and help you cope with caring for someone with a mental health condition and to look after yourself better. You can continue your caring role with renewed energy and love of life. Invest in yourself today.
Let me help stop the effects of mental health issues
My Emotional Empowerment Program has helped thousands of people like you look after yourself when in a caring role. With my help you can learn the importance of looking after yourself as a carer. We can help you cope with the toll caring for someone takes on you without the use of prescribed medications. I can help you replace stress, depression and feelings of hopelessness with happiness, peace and contentment in weeks not years.