managing the everyday

Though supporting a family member living with mental illness can seem to take over your life, mental illness in the family doesn’t mean that family life has to be tragic. You and your family can have lives that are fulfilling and joyful.

It is important that you learn to accept your family member as he is now and make sure he is always treated with respect. You may need to separate the illness from the person. For example, if your loved one is moody or irritable and quick to anger, remember that it is the illness making him act this way. These mood swings may be as upsetting to him as it is to you. You can help him by trying to imagine what your family member is enduring because of his illness. It will also help to recognize and talk about your family member’s special strengths and courage in dealing with their illness. These things won’t only help your family member, they will help you and other family members as well. When you demonstrate respect, you have a much better chance of having that respect returned by other people.

While you want to support your family member as much as possible, try not to make him the centre around which the family revolves. Try not to sacrifice all your resources, time, money and energy on him. If you wear yourself out, you are not going to be of much help to your loved one or your other family members (read through taking care of yourself later in the next section). Try to find a balance that works for you and your family. All members of the family should experience a nurturing, supportive home environment. If other family members are old enough and willing, engage them in caring for your family member. Sharing the responsibilities will ensure you have time to take care of your own mental health and happiness.

Tips to manage the everyday for caregivers