Mental illness is serious and can affect anyone at any time in their life. For the person who suffers from a mental illness it can be hard in itself to cope without the support from loved ones. However, when you’re a loved one helping someone through their mental illness, it can also be draining and can cause you, as the support network, to feel isolated. If you’re caring for someone with a mental illness and you need ways to cope yourself, here are some powerful steps to help.
Key Tips To Help You Cope During The Caring Phase
- Recognise The Signs Of Stress
Caring for someone who has a mental illness can be very stressful. In order to help you cope as a carer you need to keep an eye out for signs of stress or depression in yourself. These signs may include:
- Not enjoying the things you love anymore
- Withdrawing from people
- Having insomnia or sleepless nights
- Getting sick more than normal
- Feeling exhausted all the time
- Feeling resentful, irritated or forgetful
- Feeling sad most of the time
- Having crying spells frequently
- An inability to feel as if your coping with your situation
By recognising these signs you can begin to work on getting help for your situation. Remember you’re not alone when caring for a loved one.
- Seek Professional Help
The next step to help you cope is to seek professional help. Psychologists or your local health care practitioner may be able to help you talk through your current situation and help guide you on the best ways to help bring balance to your life.
For those in Australia, there are also Australia wide organisations to specifically support carers. These include: Mental Health Carers Australia (Ph 1300 554 660) and Carers Australia (Ph 1800 242 636). If you’re located in a different country, make sure you check to see what support groups are available to you.
It’s important to talk out your problems and hardship with experienced professionals. Many carers find it helpful to also attend support groups where they get to mix with people in similar situations. Unloading your emotional burden can help you to stay strong during this difficult and challenging time.
- Focus On Things You Can Control
While you may not be able to have control of everything in your situation, it’s important to try and control the things that you do have control over. Feeling as if you’re in control can help you to feel as if you have a foundation to stand on when other parts of your life may be in chaos. Even if it’s simply having control over the food, the cleaning, or a daily routine that you normally keep to. It all helps to keep your day focused and in control.
- Take Time For Yourself
While you may not feel as if you can take time to yourself, it’s important that you do. Depending on your situation, try to see whether you can have another family member take over for a few hours or a day so you can have some time to yourself. Or ask a health professional about the availability of respite care. If you can’t get help, when your loved one is resting or sleeping, use these times as an opportunity to focus on you and the things you love. Even if there are dishes to be done or clothes to be washed, it’s important that you take time for yourself, otherwise resentment and burnout may occur.
- Have A Plan In Place For A Crisis
While caring for someone, it’s important to have a plan in place in case something goes off track. If you find suddenly your loved one becomes suicidal or violent, it’s important to call emergency services, never handle a situation such as this alone, especially when there’s risk of harm to you or themselves. Having a plan in place for such instances will help you to be ready and cope better if the mental illness does turn serious suddenly.
Mental Illness is serious and should be taken seriously. It’s important to seek professional help if you’re struggling to cope. With such a large responsibility on your shoulders it’s always good to talk to someone who can help you to cope better with your situation. Do you need help to cope while caring for someone with a mental illness?
Todd is the Director and Principal Psychologist at TG Psychology, in Penrith, NSW. He has over 14 years of experience working with adults and young people in both public health and private practice settings. He has treated people from diverse cultural backgrounds, with a variety of emotional health and behavioural issues, including: depression, anxiety, relationship issues, anger, addictions, trauma and grief. He has also facilitated a number of group programs, treating a wide range of issues: from quitting cannabis, to social skills training, self-esteem development and deliberate self-harm behaviours.