Published: 13th October 2020
Making it work: How to deal with people with diagnosed mental health issues and be happy about it
It’s important to seek help, not only for your loved ones but also for yourself. In the end, you are the creator of your own happiness and the guardian of your mental health
Over the past few years, we have come quite a distance — from treating people with mental illness as taboo to being open about their suffering. Along this journey, one of the key factors in recovery for people with mental health issues or illness is the commitment of the family members and caregivers. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that mental illness not only affects an individual but also affects the people in close proximity. Mostly, a caregiver will put their need or distress aside and devote themselves to the care of people with mental illness. This leads to burnout, anxiety, guilt, frustration and vulnerability.
This is why a caregiver needs to learn about making it work and how to deal with people with mental illness. And make no mistake, I am not going to tell you how to handle the affected person, but I am going to talk about how you should handle the aspect affecting your mental health.
Let us understand what points affect a caregiver and what he/she can do to prevent it from affecting their happiness.
1. Sacrificing yourself – In the event of mental health issues in our loved ones, we rush to provide care. One goes that extra mile to make sure they are available and supporting. However, you cannot keep sacrificing your needs or priorities to provide support. One has to make a balanced decision and choose one’s needs as well. Quitting a job, giving up on a career, being confined to your home, reducing social contact — all these are detrimental to the caregiver’s life. One has to realise that even the person you are taking care of would not like their caregiver to be in this situation.
2. I am immune – Caregivers often work with an assumption that they are Superman or Wonder Woman, in terms of mental health. I agree, you are not as affected as your family/friend with mental illness. That doesn’t mean you are not going to get affected. You are equally, rather more vulnerable, to mental health issues due to genetic predisposition and environmental stress. That is why one should be mindful about their mental health. One should look for the early warning signs and adopt a lifestyle that helps to maintain resilience. It can be an exercise, a healthy diet, yoga, meditation or regular visits to a therapist.
3. I don’t care for me. He/she should be okay – Any mental health professional looks at the caregiver as an equal partner in the management. We need an objective caregiver, who looks after a person with mental illness and at the same time takes care of themselves. Caring for a caregiver is equally important as caring for a person with mental illness.
4. I can’t take a break – Please. Nobody needs someone all the time. Sharing responsibility not only helps you but also gives room for others to express their care. If you ask a person with mental illness, they would also want you to take a break and put yourself first for a change. It is advisable to take a frequent break from caregiving and having some ‘me’ time.
Every situation will have a unique roadblock, but will also have a unique and creative solution. That is why looking for a solution is important. There are many people out there to help out the caregivers. Numerous support groups are out there for caregivers; you can ask any mental health professional for the same. There are many social organisations that work for caregivers and impart education. It’s important to seek help, not only for your loved ones but also for yourself. In the end, you are the creator of your own happiness and the guardian of your mental health.
The author is the Head of Mpower – The Foundation and Program Coordinator of The Mpower Hub.
Opinions expressed are his own
Frame of mind: Conversations about mental health that we all need to have
Through our week-long series, EdexLive is trying to create conversations about mental health and trying to make the world a better, happier place for people. At the same time, we understand that the mental needs of different people can be different