The needs of others in the family
Caring for someone with a Mental Illness can affect the dynamics of the family. Often the caring role takes most of the caregiver’s patience, time and energy. Grief may also be involved both for the loss of the person’s former personality, achievements and contributions as well as the family’s lifestyle. This grief can lead to passive or aggressive hostility and anger. When other family members start contributing towards the care of another person, their own health and wellbeing may be neglected.
Children may not fully comprehend what is happening when someone is living with a Mental Illness or Disorder. They can often gauge the stress the family is experiencing, and not actually ask or understand what the issues are. They may withdraw, or pretend that the change in the family does not exist.
Alternatively, they may start contributing greatly towards the household and show signs of “growing up too quickly.” Other children may demonstrate anger and irritability and choose to spend more time away from their family home.
Specific resources have been developed to help explain Mental Illness to children and there are resources, set out, at the end of this document.
Looking after you
Carers and families play a vital role in the monitoring, treatment and support of those living with a Mental Illness.
Many carers find it difficult to address their own needs and they may find simple things like going for a walk or reading a book very difficult to achieve.
Sometimes carers persist with their role to the point of exhaustion and breakdown.
The situation can lead to issues of guilt and blame if the carer feels responsible for the person’s Mental Illness or believes they are not doing a good enough job of caring. They may think that by taking “more” or “better” care the person will recover from their Mental Illness.
If carers take on such a huge burden of responsibility it can have a negative impact on their own mental and physical health. An exhausted, frustrated and emotionally drained carer will find it difficult to keep on giving.
How to care for you
- Give yourself permission to take breaks without guilt and know it is your right, as a carer, to do so.
- Devote at least 30 minutes a day to yourself doing what you enjoy: going for a walk, talking with a friend, reading a book, sitting down with a cup of tea and watching your favourite television show – or whatever you choose.
- Plan for longer breaks and use Respite Services if they are available
- Attend a support group for friends and family
- Avoid extra pressures and unnecessary tasks
- Get out of the house, at least once a day
- Eat regular, healthy meals
- Exercise regularly
- Achieve adequate sleep
Where do I go for help?
Mental Health Information Line
1300 794 991
Anxiety Disorders Information Line
1300 794 992
Your local doctor (GP)
Translating & Interpreting Service
(TIS) 131 450
Please call the Mental Health Information Line through the Telephone Interpreter Service (TIS). Free to Australian citizens or permanent residents.
This information is for educational purposes. As neither brochures nor websites can diagnose people it is always important to obtain professional advice and/or help when needed.
This information may be reproduced with an acknowledgement to WayAhead – Mental Health Association.
The Association encourages feedback and welcomes comments about the information provided.