Mental illness doesn’t affect just a person who suffers from it. It usually profoundly penetrates every pore of family life. As a partner or a family member of a person who is struggling with mental illness, you may feel helpless and desperate. Regardless of your commitment and support, you may often feel that your family member’s illness is draining you completely.
However, people with mental health issues usually don’t want to weigh down the loved ones with their illness. For example, people with depression usually feel guilty about their condition and the effects the illness has on their family life and their loved ones.
So, caring for a loved one with mental illness can be very challenging. Here are some useful tips on how to understand and handle mental illness efficiently.
Learn and Talk about Mental Illness
Depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders are real health problems, not the person’s attempts to draw the attention. Many families either deny mental illness or don’t take it seriously. Denying your spouse’s, child’s, or parent’s mental illness opens the door to prejudices and stigma, isolating the person further and forcing them to suffer alone.
Ignoring mental illness, on the other hand, hinders your loved one’s chances to get the appropriate help, treatment, and a chance of recovery.
Talk openly about mental illness with people outside of the family or relationship. Encourage the loved one to talk about their experience, too. This may help them experience compassion and support from other people and feel less isolated in their suffering.
With a proactive approach and readiness to learn and talk openly about mental illness, you will help a loved one to manage their mental illness more successfully.
Be Supportive but not Overprotective
While your support to a loved one is crucial in their coping with illness, keep in mind that you cannot carry the burden for them. Talk about mental illness in the family and clarify the boundaries within the family system because healthy boundaries are essential for building trust and offering support.
While love and support are important, they don’t have the power to heal the cause of mental illness, though. It is important to protect yourself by not taking responsibility for the loved one’s needs and feelings. Practice to say ‘no’ and to express your own needs, thoughts, and feelings respectfully but assertively.
Don’t neglect your own needs and find ways to fulfill them without feeling guilty. Do something good for yourself. Exercise regularly Practice mindfulness meditation, relaxation, and stay socially active. Regular physical activity and self-care can boost your mood, increase optimism, improve self-esteem, raise resilience, and help you cope with stress.
Keep in mind that your loved one’s mental illness is not your responsibility. No matter how close you are, you cannot and should not bear the weight of the loved one’s mental illness. So, be aware of your limits and seek professional help for yourself.
There is nothing wrong with prioritizing your needs. This is, in fact, essential if you want to continue caregiving effectively. There are support groups and communities dedicated to caregivers to loved ones with mental illness, so reach out when you need support.