Care - such a warm and beautiful word that makes you smile when you hear it. There is a lot to be grateful for when someone cares for you, and being a caregiver to someone can feel very rewarding as well. 

Caregiving has assumed never-seen-before importance, especially in the last couple of years of the pandemic, when so many people have needed to isolate and recover at home from COVID-19. 

However, what often goes unnoticed or underappreciated is the role of caregivers for those with mental health issues. 

Mental health issues are already stigmatized in Indian society and it is hard to come out and ask for help. Living with someone whose mental health is suffering could prove to be even more difficult. 

If you are a caregiver and if your loved one is suffering from mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), mood problems, or personality disorders, it could feel overwhelming and exhausting to provide care while looking after yourself as well. 

You may have felt hopeless, unprepared, or confused when it comes to handling the delicate mental health of your loved one. Feeling inadequate is normal, but remember that you are doing great! 

Here are a few things to remember so that you can be an effective caregiver for someone with a mental health issue. 

5 Steps to Being an Effective Caregiver

1. Get educated. Nobody expects you already to know everything about the mental health issue your loved one is facing. 

However, you can begin by seeking some information about mental health in general, and the biological, social, and psychological factors affecting the mental health condition. 

You can ask your loved one questions to understand their condition. Ask open-ended questions such as: How does it feel and what makes it better or worse?

2. Encourage them to seek professional advice. Discuss with your loved one that they can get better with treatment. 

Though you will be there to listen to them, provide company, and offer emotional support, you may not be able to help with the treatment of the mental health issue plaguing them. 

Evidence-based treatment, including medicine, counselling, and psychotherapy from qualified mental health professionals should be sought as soon as a diagnosis is made.  

3. Be there for them. Mental illness can feel isolating, especially in these times when people are spending most of their time within four walls with minimum social interaction. 

It is important for your loved one to know that they have friends and family that love them, no matter what. This can help their mental health immensely. 

4. Accept help from others. You cannot do it all by yourself and you are not expected to. Discuss with your loved one what help they are fine with choosing, and let others help you with these tasks. 

Apart from family and friends who can offer help and emotional assistance, there may be support groups, healthcare centres, and caregiving resources in your community. These can be good places for your loved one to feel understood and make meaningful connections. 

5. Take care of yourself. Stop feeling selfish for thinking about yourself. You need to take care of yourself as taking care of someone with a mental health issue can be emotionally exhausting and even financially difficult. 

Pay attention to your needs such as adequate sleep, food, exercise, socialization, and time out for yourself.  You can only care for others when you take care of yourself. 

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.