When someone you love has been diagnosed with a mental illness, you feel a mixture of emotions. Concern, compassion, disbelief, anger, relief, anxiety, grief, love, guilt … any and all of these emotions are understandable and normal. You are not to blame for a loved one’s mental illness. Mental illnesses are caused by many different factors that work together, such as genetics, biology, environment, and life experiences.
Loved ones can play a big part in helping a person recover, work towards their goals, and stay well. Care and emotional support go a long way in recovery and well-being. So can practical help, like managing doctor’s appointments and other daily tasks. You can also play a part in helping a loved one maintain well-being. You and other close supporters may be the first to notice changes in a loved one’s mood, behaviour, self care, or other area that shows their mental health may be worsening. This means you can help your loved one find the right help early. You can also help them see hope at a time when they feel it the least.
Who is taking care of you?
When a loved one experiences a mental illness, their care and support can take a lot of time and energy. But your own needs are just as important, too. If you aren’t well, it’s harder to help someone else regain wellness. Here are some tips to think about:
Here are some tips:
It’s also important to tell your loved one (and their care team) what behaviours you aren’t willing to tolerate. You have rights, too—you never have to tolerate dangerous or abusive behaviour.
What to do in a crisis
If your loved one experiences serious episodes that cause problems, it’s important to plan ahead for these problems. These plans—written during times of wellness—usually map out what will happen and who will be involved if a loved one starts to feel unwell. You may be included in a plan with your loved one’s care team, but you can make a plan just between you and your loved one, too.
If you believe that a loved one is at risk of harming themselves or others and they won’t seek help, you may get a mental health assessment through your province’s or territory’s mental health laws. In general, these laws let a doctor, judge, police officer, or justice of the peace order an evaluation if a person meets certain criteria. While this can be a helpful tool in a crisis situation, it can also be difficult and traumatic for everyone involved. Ideally, a loved one should have a plan in place that seeks action before these emergency measures are necessary. Contact your provincial or territorial ministry or department of health to learn more.
A note on privacy
Under Canadian law, an adult’s health care team can’t talk about medical information like a diagnosis or treatment in most situations without permission of the adult. This may seem frustrating at times, but these laws were designed to protect the rights of people who experience a mental illness. An open relationship with a loved one can go a long way in keeping everyone informed and supporting a loved one’s care choices.
Income and housing support
When someone you love is diagnosed with a mental illness, you may worry about their financial future. If they are unemployed or don’t make enough to support themself, they may qualify for income supports. Some programs are provincial or territorial, and others are national. Talk with a loved one’s care team, provincial or territorial services, or a local organization to see what’s available. Your bank can also help with tools like a Registered Disability Savings Plan.
Mental illnesses can be barriers to good, affordable housing, but the right housing can give people freedom and independence. There are different kinds of housing options available with varying levels of supports. Contact the CMHA or other local mental health organizations to get more information on housing programs.
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The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in Alberta is made up of eight regions. Additionally CHMA in Alberta includes the Centre for Suicide Prevention and a Divisional (Provincial) office located in Edmonton.About Us
Reaching out for help is an important step. Talk with someone you trust about how you feel. Life can be overwhelming and there are supports available to you.Find out How
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