impact of mental illness on the family

Supportive families and friends play an essential role in helping a loved one cope with mental illness. Those who manage their illnesses best are often those who have a strong social network to support them. Supporting your family member can come at a cost to you and your family, especially if your family member lives in your home. There are additional responsibilities, added worry and more stresses.

Many supportive families feel excluded – ignored by mental health and social systems. Some struggle to find the right information or the right help for their family member. After months or sometimes years, this wears families down physically and mentally. In contrast, some families report that finding the right help made a huge impact on their life and their family member’s lives.

“Mental illnesses have a significant impact on the family. To begin with, they may face difficult decisions about treatment, hospitalization, and housing... The individuals and their families face the anxiety of an uncertain future and the stress of what can be a severe and limiting disability. The heavy demands of care may lead to burnout... The cost of medication, time off work and extra support can create a severe financial burden for families. Both the care requirements and the stigma attached to mental illness often lead to isolation of family members from the community and their social support network...” – A Report on Mental Illnesses in Canada, Health Canada, 2002.

“Even though family caregivers spend endless hours searching tirelessly for services and treatments and advocating on behalf of their family members, their efforts are often unappreciated or ignored.” – Out of the Shadows at Last: Transforming Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction Services in Canada, The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, 2006.