10 Tips to Help Carers of those with Mental Health Disorders
10 Tips for those caring for someone who has a Mental Disorder
I am the mother of a 15 year old daughter who has been diagnosed with Asperger's Disorder, Anxiety Disorder and Bipolar. This didn't all happen at once. The Asperger's wasn't diagnosed until she was in her early teens, the anxiety disorder when she was 15and the bipolar only about 3 months ago.
It is extremely trying living with someone who has serious neurological disorders and it requires a great deal of patience and tolerance to survive. It can and does put a lot of pressure on the family dynamics and can affect relationships between other members of the family.
I have a number of tips which I hope will help anyone living with and caring for a person with a mental illness.
1. Be patient. Try to remember that your loved one has a serious neurological illness. A physical ailment attracts a lot more sympathy from people because it is something that can be seen and understood. It is difficult to live with someone who has a mental illness but is even more difficult to be living with it. Like anyone else, people with mental illnesses want to fit in and be part of society yet in many cases they just can't amalgamate as they want to.
This is why patience is so very important as a lot of the time difficult behaviour is merely the manifestation of frustration at not being able to fit in. Society is generally quite intolerant of and uncomfortable with mental illness.
2. Be supportive. By this I mean just be there for your loved one. Sometimes they will want to talk, other times they won't. Just let them know that you're there for them no matter what.
3. Learn about your loved ones disorders. Knowledge is power. It is very easy to get angry and frustrated with your loved ones erratic mood swings if you have little or no understanding of what they are suffering. There is a huge amount of information on the Internet and forums which you can join for support and information.
4. Take time out. It can be very draining and at times downright exhausting caring for someone with a mental illness. It is important to have time to your self and with other loved ones to recharge the batteries.
5. Ask questions of your loved one. Choose the correct time i.e. when your loved one is calm. It is important to know how they are feeling to try and get an understanding of where they are at and how they are feeling. You are best to ask open ended questions, in other words questions that require an explanation as opposed to a yes or no answer to better gauge their mood and feelings.
6. Set boundaries and implement consequences for inappropriate behaviour. This is obviously easier to institute when dealing with minors but there are some behaviours which are not acceptable whatever the circumstances and your loved one needs to know that this behaviour won't be tolerated. The second step to this is to be consistent and stick to the rules.
7. Have a support team around you. It is important that you know who to contact should your loved one become a threat to themselves or others. It is also important that you have someone to talk to whether that be a counsellor or a family member or friend who understands your situation.
8. Don't blame yourself for your loved one's illness. It is nobodies fault and a waste of valuable energy feeling guilty.
9. Be an advocate for your loved one. There are times that even the mental health professionals you are dealing with will be less than sympathetic as they can become immune to the issues being faced by the patients. If you are not satisfied with the level of care that you and your loved one is receiving, find a team that you are satisfied with. This is your right and it is important to exercise it. Patients and carers alike should be treated with respect and care.
10. Remember everyone is an individual. Mental illness is very difficult to diagnose. Once you have a diagnosis it is important not to label your loved one as 'bipolar' or 'asperger's'. Every case of these disorders will present with varying symptoms sometimes overlapping so each individual must be treated according to the symptoms which they present.
It can be difficult to prescribe the correct medication and it is often a trial and error process. Here we go back to number 1. Be patient. It takes time to get a diagnosis and will also take time to get the right level of treatment.
About the author:
Sue Taylor is the mother of a 15 year old girl who suffers from a variety of mental disorders.
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