One in five Australians will experience an episode of mental illness in their lifetime. In many of these situations their friends and relatives will care for them on a daily basis, whether this is for a brief period of recovery or over the long term.
Carers need support and information to help sustain them in this role.
Without this support carers are at risk of developing mental health conditions themselves.
When you support a person with a mental health condition, it’s different from supporting or caring for a person with a physical health condition. Many people simply don’t understand that mental health conditions are illnesses nor do they understand the intensity or the ongoing nature of the supporters role.
Tips for managing your role as a carer
Accept how you feel
- Being a carer may bring up a range of emotions including guilt, fear, shame and frustration
- These feelings are normal and to be expected. The more you can accept these feelings rather than attempting to avoid them the easier it will be for you to keep supporting your loved one.
Share the Task
- Don’t go it alone
- Seek moral and emotional support as well as practical assistance. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends and family and chase up professional assistance or input from other carers in a similar position.
- Get respite when you need it
Be well informed
- Learn about the specific diagnosis and the system of treatment and care that is available.
- Understand the impact of their illness and any medications they may be taking
Gain new skills
- Liaise with the treatment team (e.g. psychologist, psychiatrist) involved with your loved one to determine if there are skills and strategies you require to best support them
- Consider taking a mental health first aid course or attend other training events to upskill about your loved ones condition
Practice self-care regularly
- Monitoring your own mental health and knowing when you may be struggling is important
- Develop a list of go to activities and strategies that you can engage in take care of you
- Seek respite and take a break when needed
- Not only does living with and continually supporting someone with a mental health condition affect you and your relationship with the person, but it’s likely to affect relationships with other people as well.
- Try not to let your concerns for the other person dominate your life. Make sure you maintain your relationships with other people and develop new social contacts.
How can I help the person I am caring for?
At the core of helping is simply to focus on the care, love and compassion that you hold for the person and allow this to shine through in your interactions with them. Beyond this it may help to:
- Be patient and non judgmental
- Help them to express and maintain their individuality separate to the illness
- Seek help and advice when needed
- Don’t attempt to be your loved ones psychologist, focus on your role as their loved one
Supports available for carers
There are many supports available to carers these include:
- Education, advice and counselling from carers organisations
- Carers leave if in paid work
- Carers allowance from Centrelink
Useful organisations for carers include:
Carers Australia is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to improving the lives of carers through important services like carer counselling, advice, advocacy, education and training.
Helping Minds provide mental health support to families, carers and their friends. Support includes: linking people to other carers who can offer face-to-face peer support, education services with other carers, and advocacy services which help carers to identify and find solutions to their challenges.
Carer Gateway provides services such as carer support planning, counselling, peer support, carer directed funding packages and emergency respite.
Should you need further support and advice contact us at Prosper Health Collective.
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