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Coping with Mental Illness in the family

Up to 75% of the population know someone with a mental illness. Many of us are unprepared when someone in the family develops a serious mental health problem. Feelings may include confusion, anger,distress,helplessness,fear and guilt. There are a number of strategies that families can adopt to help cope with mental illness and support a family member to recovery.

1. Learn as much as you can about the condition

Find out as much as you can about mental illness, treatments available and support services in your area. Encourage the person who is experiencing the illness to be involved as much as possible

2. Develop a plan

Work out a plan for coping day by day. Also a plan in the event when a crisis occurs. Involve the person with the illness and discuss this with the GP,psychiatrist or other mental health professional as appropriate. Discuss strategies for when symptoms begin to recur for example. Mental illness often creates a feeling of powerelessness. Developing a plan helps everyone regain a sense of some control.

3. Look after yourself

Look after yourself and other members and friends involved. When someone has a mental illness, it's common for them ot become a focus of family life.Endevour to make time for yourself and others to relax and pursue other interests so that you don't become exhausted. This is in everyone's interest. Don't expect too much of yourself. You may become tired,angry or resentful at times. Having hope is important. Treatments are improving and with time most people do achieve improved levels of recovery.

4. Contact a support group

A number of voluntary organisations, eg Aware, Schizophrenia Ireland and Bodywhys operate support groups for carers or relatives of people with a mental illness. See our links page for details.

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