How can I support myself when I’m caring for someone with a mental health problem?

by | Mental Health

Dr Matthew Cullen, Psychiatrist, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney

When you’re a carer, or if you’re caring for someone with a mental health problem, or actually caring for somebody with a physical health problem, it’s demanding. It’s tiring. It’s a sense of being on all the time. It’s having to deal with the unpredictable, and having to often problem solve which are issues that you sort of know are going to happen, but when they happen, often there’s no immediate answers.

So the first thing if you’re supporting somebody with a mental health problem is to look after yourself to make sure that you’re taking time to exercise, or if you’re working, continue to go to work, or downloading or talk to friends or family so that you’re sharing the load of looking after somebody with a mental health problem.

Sometimes that extends to support groups who may be around to provide you with the back up that you need. Secondly in supporting someone with a mental health problem, it’s important I think for you to feel comfortable that the person is getting the treatment that they need.

Are they seeing someone that has got the professional skills, the understanding, and the know how to help the person you’re supporting? And then assuming that those two things are in place, having a plan, having a plan that you’re working to, but also having a plan that you’re working with the individual that you’re supporting who has a mental health problem. So the plan should have as part of it, clearly defined things that need to happen for that person who has a mental illness.

But also what you need to do, so that you’re not dealing in the unknown, that you are able to be clear about what you need to do to help that person at that time.