When someone suffers from a serious mental health disorder, family caregivers are also affected. It’s difficult to witness a loved one struggling with mental illness. Family caregivers go through a range of powerful, often unpleasant emotions. The stressful experience of looking after someone with extreme mental health problems may trigger emotional and behavioral distress in caregivers.
A serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia in a loved one, affects the entire family. Caregivers often feel helpless in the face of such a daunting diagnosis. Loved ones will often rally around the person diagnosed, offering their help and trying to be supportive in times of need. They will try their level best to provide for that person if the need arises. This support is invaluable for the person affected, but it can be a strain on caregivers.
When family members must care for someone who requires their constant attention and support, they often forget to feel their own emotions. Even if they do, all they feel is anger, grief, and mostly sadness. Happiness becomes a faraway term. In such situations, caregivers often feel guilty about feeling these negative emotions when their dear ones are suffering so much.
These reactions result when family members fail to understand the importance of taking care of their own mental health when supporting a loved one with mental illness.
How To Be There For Your Loved One
Family members may take on various responsibilities to care for a person with a serious mental health disorder. They make sure medications are available and taken as directed, provide transportation to the clinic and appointments, help with money management, and often take care of the financial arrangements. All of this can put much strain and pressure on caregivers.
But who takes care of the mental health of caregivers? They are the ones who need to stay strong, but even their emotions falter at times.
Here are a few self-care tips for mental health caregivers:
To provide support to a loved one with a mental health disorder, it is important that you understand the illness. There are several publications, journals, TV shows, and videos to help you educate yourself. Attend training courses for caregivers, conferences, or support groups to find out more about it. Learn about the diagnoses and treatments without labeling or judging the person for it. Also, keep track of what services are available in your area and remotely on the web, should the need arise.
Look After Yourself
Caregiving, with its countless responsibilities, can be hard and time-consuming. It can be challenging to focus on anything else, but it is imperative that you take care of your own needs first. Eat healthy meals, get some exercise, get enough sleep, and take some time to do activities you enjoy to keep your stress levels in check. Also, use constructive self-talk, such as telling yourself, “We can do this!”
Accept That Your Emotions Are Natural
It’s natural to feel hurt or embarrassed. Grieve, if you must, but do not deny your emotions or feel negative about yourself for this. Express your feelings to someone capable of listening to avoid building up resentment.
Acknowledge Your Limits
Caregivers may give it their all, but there’s a limit to what’s possible to help someone. Recognize your personal limitations and accept that you may not be able to be in total control of the situation. Seek support when necessary. You must find a balance between your needs as a caregiver and the person you are caring for.
Maintain An Open Communication Channel
Listen without making judgments and focus on your loved one’s needs. Avoid confrontation and encourage him or her to seek professional help. Offer to help in contacting certified medical practitioners. Stay calm and understand that your loved one is going through a hard time. This person needs comfort from you and not negative emotions.
Work On Your Relationship
Spend time together. Encourage, be supportive and empathetic, and work towards understanding the person’s thinking. This helps in keeping the relationship and/or the family from falling apart.
Be Prepared For Emotional Upheaval
Mental illness generally comes with a biological component. It is not the result of bad parenting. The family member who is going through mental health problems may have unusual behavior and stress, and it may be difficult to deal with him or her. Your loved one is not abnormal, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed. Do not blame – it’s not this person’s fault.
It’s important to identify sources of support. Finding support from people who are in your shoes is the best option. Often, the best support comes from those who are going through similar experiences. Consider joining a support group to meet other people who have experienced something similar. Support-groups can help you learn to cope and not feel so alone. Support networks provide practical and emotional help. Look for treatment programs that are family-based. Research shows that involvement by family members is helpful in improving patients’ well-being.
Collaborations and Expectations
You should have realistic expectations. Recovery is not always straightforward. Your loved one will experience setbacks in recovery, and so will you. Ask for recommendations from the treatment team, and support your loved one. It will help make a difference. Knowing that you are there to provide support will help your loved one recover faster.
While taking care of your family member with mental illness, remember to take care of yourself, too. Don’t blame yourself for your loved one’s mental health problems. Serious disorders related to mental illness often have multiple unknown causes.
Family members are an important part of a vital support network for people with serious mental health challenges. Caregivers play many roles in providing help and support for people with serious mental illness. Caregivers can encounter lots of problems and may also need help from mental health and emotional wellness experts.
If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
About the Author: Dr. Sukanya Goswami is a dentist, a blogger, an extrovert, and a travel enthusiast. She is also a spiritual believer. When she is not working, you can find her reading books.
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