When a friend or relative suffers from mental health problems, it's not just their life that's affected. Here are some tips on how to cope if you find yourself in the role of carer.
When someone you love has a breakdown, depression, panic attacks or is living with OCD, it's not just their wellbeing that's affected. Your relationship and family life may also feel the strain.
There is nothing selfish about wanting a break from them. Just as those who are mentally ill shouldn't feel held back on their road to recovery by negative attitudes surrounding their condition, nor should the carer.
It's important to respond sensitively if someone close to you seems to be suffering from mental distress. The most important thing initially is to let them know you're still there for them, that you care for them and that you accept them whatever problems they're having.
Sometimes, someone with a mental health problem will want their friends and family to offer support by just acting as 'normal' as possible in the circumstances.
If you think outside help is needed, try to persuade your partner or relative to seek help themselves. A GP is a good place to start, or the Samaritans. If they are reluctant to take action, you can contact services yourself, after letting your loved one know this is what you plan to do.
If you can listen well, the person may be able to talk in a way that could help them feel better.
Help them to help themselves
It's also important that the person who is ill does all they can to help themselves. You can encourage them to:
If someone who is mentally ill has children then the whole family needs to understand that their behaviour is the result of an illness and that nobody is to blame.
Children will cope with the situation better if they understand clearly that their parent is ill and the child is not to blame for what is happening, and that their parent still loves them, no matter what problems they may be experiencing.
Having as stable a home environment as possible will also help a child's resilience. If the child has interests and friends outside the home, they will also cope much better.
If you provide help or support for a relative, friend or partner who has mental health problems then you are a carer. The Foundation Trust is committed in making sure that as a carer:
If the person for whom you are a carer is using or registered with Camden and Islington mental health services then the Trust is required by law to provide you with a carer assessment. This assessment is done to help us understand your needs and to provide you with support for your role.
These Choice fact sheets come from a study which followed the introduction of the Mental Capacity Act (2005).
For the first time, researchers asked family carers from different walks of life and with all types of circumstances, about difficult decisions they had made on behalf of a friend or relative with dementia.
These sheets were created from their advice, and include what carers said in their own words.
Although this information is designed to advise family members making decisions for people with dementia, keep in mind that there is rarely a single correct answer. Each decision that you make will be influenced by your own individual circumstances.
Please click here to access the factsheets.
When you care for someone with a mental health problem you can put so much energy into making sure they are OK, that finding out information about your situation may be your last concern.
That's where the latest edition of the Mental Health Carers' Directory comes in. It gives you all the crucial information you need, including a rough guide to illness and treatment and a tour around local mental health services.
The directory should be invaluable to you if you need to get in touch with the right professional or team. It also tells you about the organisations that are out there supporting carers of people who use mental health services.
If you would like a copy of the directory, call your local Community Mental Health Team, Islington Carers Centre (020 7263 9080) or Making Space (020 7530 6431). Alternatively please click here for an electronic copy.