Mental illness is more common and far-reaching than most people realize, touching the lives of 1 in 5 Canadians annually. Statistics show that by the age of 40 about 50 per cent of the population will have experienced or will be experiencing a mental illness:
- Approximately eight per cent of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives
- Anxiety disorders affect five per cent of the population, causing mild to severe impairment
- Approximately one per cent of Canadians will experience bipolar disorder (or “manic depression”)
Caregiving for a loved one with mental illness can be an emotionally, mentally and physically draining task and can strain your patience.
Here are a few (immediate) things caregivers can do to better cope:
Give yourself grace
There is no “right” way to feel when someone you loved is diagnosed with mental illness, but you are not alone in your feelings. It is natural to feel a complicated mix of emotions, like sadness, fear, frustration and even anger. Allow yourself to feel what you need to feel.
Set clear boundaries
You can’t be everything for everyone—nor should you be. While your care recipient may depend and rely on you for a wide variety of services and needs, it’s important to know your limits and express them clearly. Take advantage of local resources that can provide physical, emotional, and psychological support to you as a caregiver.
Arm yourself with knowledge
Mental illness comes in many varieties with complicated and challenging symptoms. Do research, consult with specialists and take advantage of local resources to help learn as much as you can about your care recipient’s particular illness. This will give you a better understanding of them and empower your ability to provide good care.
We can help if your struggling with:
- Feeling overwhelmed, lonely or isolated
- Trouble balancing work, family and your caregiving responsibilities
- Navigating the healthcare system, finding available resources
Ultimately, the most important thing to remember is you don’t need to navigate this terrain alone.