Looking after those who care for, befriend and love someone who has a Mental Health problem
The social and familial networks of people living with a mental illness or mental health problem are very important. Carers, friends, family and partners are often an overlooked population. Caring and supporting a person with a mental illness can take a toll and carers and friends need as much support as possible.
Carers, friends or partners of someone living with a mental illness may benefit from considering the following:
- When was the last time you had some quality ‘you time’ away from your partner, friend or family member?
- Have you started to postpone activities that you previously enjoyed or said no to social invitations because of the responsibilities of caring?
- Have you taken some time to talk to a professional (counsellor, therapist, psychologist or social worker) to debrief about the impacts of caring and discuss available support for carers?
- Are you spending considerable periods ‘worrying’ about the health of your loved one?
- Are you left feeling like you are burnt out or worn out due to caring with little left over for you?
- Has caring changed the relationship you have with your loved one in a negative way?
- Has caring impacted the relationship you have with others?
As a carer or friend of a person living with a mental illness you play a valuable role and your support to your loved one plays a vital part in their long term recovery. Your compassion, kindness and practical support are worth their weight in gold. Although your loved one may not always be able to verbally express their gratitude for what you do, it’s important that you compassionately acknowledge and validate your own contribution to enriching their lives. You are a person too with your unique needs and values that are important. Carers themselves can be at elevated risk of depression, anxiety or stress related disorders if their responsibilities become too much and they can become overwhelmed without some balance and time out for themselves.
Joining a support group or debriefing and seeking support from a qualified professional are ways you can aim to regain some balance and control in your life. It may initially feel ‘selfish’ to do or you might feel that your loved one may suffer if you redirect your care to yourself and other people in your life, but the quality of the care and support is likely to increase threefold if you spend some time reinvesting in yourself.
Support services for carers