By Keenisha Protho, LMSW, Professional Development Specialist at Mental Health America of Greater Houston
Typically, when we think of caregivers, we think of those who take care of loved ones with physical ailments who are unable to care for themselves. Very rarely do we discuss those that are caring for loved ones with severe mental illness. With mental health still being a stigmatized subject, we usually shy away from discussing the signs and symptoms associated. Because discussing these issues with others could be considered a breach of privacy, caring for someone with severe mental illness can leave the caregiver feeling alone and drained. Discussing ways for these caregivers to care for themselves is equally as important as the individual they are caring for. Continue reading for some straightforward advice for caregivers:
- Know your boundaries and limits. Pay attention to yourself and what seems to hinder your own mental well-being. These are the things you should set limits around. Know that you can’t push someone to do anything they are not willing to do. Try not to focus on things that you can’t control. Know that you are doing your best with what you can. Your loved one’s behavior or decisions do not rest within your locus of control.
- Do things that bring you joy and allow you to detach from your caregiver role. As a caregiver, it may be easy to put the needs of others before your own. Please do not allow your own needs to be suppressed while doing so. Do things that make you laugh. Keep people around you that love you and look out for your well-being.
- Know who you can call for support. Also, know what resources are available to you for support. Understand that mental health therapy might be a resource for you as well. Feeling guilty, sad, or depressed most of the time could be a sign to reach out to a mental health professional. Reaching out to local support groups might also be beneficial.
- Take care of your physical health. Caregiving can be a stressful task. Prolonged amounts of stress, when not balanced with other vitalizing activities, can lead to physical issues for yourself. Please make sure to get your annual check-ups and see your doctor when needed.
- Coordinate with family and friends who can take turns being with your loved one so you can take a break. Remove things in the home such as alcohol, firearms, sharp objects, or anything that can be used to hurt themselves.
- Invite them to talk but remember it’s not your job to diagnose and treat them. Talking to you might be a coping mechanism for them, especially if they feel no one is hearing them or if they feel misunderstood. Just listening might be what they need the most in that moment.
- Know the signs of severe distress. Knowing the signs will let you know if immediate action is needed. Check in on your mental health by taking a free, confidential, anonymous screening by heading to our website, https://mhahouston.org/screening/. The screenings take less than 5 minutes and you will be provided with local resources at the end.