When a family member suffers from a mental illness such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety disorder or schizophrenia, it affects every part of the lives of every member of your household.
It's important to develop coping strategies to help you deal with daily challenges, the difficult situations that could arise and your own feelings and emotions. Here are some strategies to consider.
Take care of yourself
You can't take care of anybody else if you don't take care of yourself. Try to make time for sleep and stress reduction, exercise,your own interests and socializing. Know the signs of stress in yourself, and take action early to replenish your physical and mental resources. It may help to create a time-out space, where you can be alone when you need a break.
To ensure that you, the person with a mental illness and other members of the family feel comfortable in your home, set limits about behaviours and actions as a family. These could include a limit on noise after a certain hour, having overnight guests or if alcohol is allowed in the home. Communicate them clearly to your loved one, and be prepared to take steps if they are not followed.
Be prepared to be proactive
Of course, you always want what's best for your loved one. In order to do that, it's important anticipate and be proactive about situations that may cause stress for you and everyone else in your household.
One way to do that is by having coping strategies in place should a stressor — like a life change or changes in routine or schedule — trigger a difficult time.
Draw on support
It's natural to feel alone and overwhelmed, but try not to become socially isolated:
- Take advantage of support available to you — your local mental health and caregiver organizations are good places to start. Search “mental health” or “caregiver” in Find Support
- Acknowledge your feelings and confide in a trusted friend. Meet with a support group or another family experiencing a similar situation, attend counselling, or turn to your loved one's physician and health care team.
- Look to books and online resources as helpful sources of additional support.
- Write a journal to help work through your thoughts and feelings to find relief.
- Don't feel you need to do everything yourself. Consider the level of support you are able to provide, and make arrangements for help from other resources to fill the gaps.
- Try to find ways to help the person become more self-sufficient and independent — this will help both of you to lead healthier and happier lives.
Find more information about being a caregiver in Advice for Caregivers.