When your family member experiences mental health challenges you may experience a wide range of emotions. You might feel fear, love, guilt, compassion, anger, empathy, or grief. It is very common for you to go through many emotions, sometimes all at once. This is perfectly normal and you are not alone. It is also not uncommon to experience high levels of stress, problems in relationships, and substance use as you struggle to help your family member or friend while trying to manage your own worries. Here are a few things you can do:
Accept that the way you feel is normal and not unusual. You may be experiencing something new and have not been prepared for your young adult to struggle with mental health concerns. This does not make you a bad parent, caregiver, grandparent, sibling, etc.
Learn more about what your relative is experiencing. Ask gently with an open mind and listen quietly. You will have a lot of questions but allow the person to gradually share more as they understand that you are there to help. If you know the young adult is experiencing depression, anxiety, psychosis, etc. find some resources to help you learn about signs and symptoms so you can figure out what is helpful (see resource listing below).
with others. Families often feel shame and embarrassment about what is happening and worry that they will be judged. It’s normal to want to isolate yourself but you do need to talk with someone. Find a trusted family member or friend or seek some professional support, either individually or in a group. There are other people who have experienced what you are going through and they can be helpful. Stella’s Place has partnered with Family Outreach and Response (FOR)
to offer a family education and support group. You can be assured that it is a safe and stigma-free zone to talk about what is happening with your relative and how you can help. Check our schedule of events [what’s on] to see current family support groups offered.
Care for yourself. It might feel like the last thing you want to do when you are caring for your relative but the old saying is true, “You can’t help someone else unless you help yourself.” Try to get out for some exercise. It will give you some time to yourself and help you sleep better. Eat well and do something enjoyable. You will be in a better position to help your loved one if you are well.
Plan in advance for crisis. Despite your best efforts, the young adult may experience a crisis and need some additional help. If you live in Toronto and you think your loved one is in immediate danger or you are in danger yourself:
- Call 911
- Go to the nearest hospital
- Call a crisis line or Need Help Now