Coping with a Mental Illness in the Family

Download PDF

Learn About The Mental Illness

Learn about the type of mental illness that affects your family member. Know its warning signs at onset, as well as the signs of relapse, so you can act quickly if intervention becomes necessary. Explore treatment options and discuss them with your loved one’s doctors. Research and understand the kinds of behaviors your relative may display and how to deal with them. There are many websites that offer credible information, but scrutinize the ones you find.

Avoid Falling Into The Traps Of Shame & Isolation

Reach out for support and a listening ear. There are support groups for both the ill person and family members. If necessary, find a counselor or psychiatrist who can counsel family members. Avoid overprotecting your family member from the stigma of mental illness. The stigma is fast disappearing, and new medications for mental disorders are continually being developed. There is no shame in mental illness, only in delaying or avoiding treatment.

Be Hopeful, But Realistic

Many people with mental illness are capable of holding full-time, responsible jobs with the aid of proper medication and support. Even if hospitalization for a period of time is necessary, this should not preclude continuing with normal life after discharge. If the mentally ill person cannot participate in regular activities, an adult day care center or assisted living home may be an appropriate placement.

Don’t Ignore The Needs Of Children In Your Family

Although mental illness should not be the focal point in your family, share information with your children that is suitable to their age levels and will reduce fear and anxiety. Be very diligent in monitoring children’s needs to make sure they receive proper care, information and attention. Inform the children’s teachers about the situation, so they can observe the child’s behavior and provide extra support and reassurance. Children also need time away from the mentally ill person, apart from school hours, to relax and participate in enjoyable activities. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, and parents of friends can be very helpful in providing time away.

Each year millions of Americans are diagnosed with mental illness. Family members commonly feel an overwhelming sense of helplessness and anxiety and may secretly blame themselves for the mental illness, believing that something they did caused it. Since family members are often the key to successful intervention, helping them cope is crucial to helping those with mental illness. Here are some steps to follow.

Understand The Patients Need In Responsibility

A key principal in mental health treatment is for patients to take personal responsibility for managing their illness.  This includes medication compliance. However, never assume that the patient is acting responsibly. There must be a system in place that is used to confirm that medications are taken and doctors’ orders followed.

Take Care Of Yourself!

Maintain balance in your own life. Family members often suffer from lack of sleep, poor nutrition, little exercise and recreation, and increased stress. Self-help resources can help you draw a balance between caring for the ill person and taking care of yourself. Respite caregivers are available to give you some free time. You can find this help in your community.

Since family members are the key to successful care of the mentally ill, find information and resources to guide and support you. Be sure to take good care of your own physical and mental health, and call on resources to support you. You have a special role, and deserve all the support you can get.

Experience how PAS can help you navigate through all of life's twists & turns
Show Me