Mental Health America defines mental illness as a disease that causes mild to severe disturbances in thought and or behavior resulting in an inability to cope with life’s ordinary demands and routines. Mental disorders range from the more common mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder, to anxiety disorders such as phobias and panic disorders to the more seemingly severe psychotic Disorders under which schizophrenia and delusional disorders are classified.
I personally have never lived with someone with a mental disorder (knowingly as least). While researchers and mental health professionals worldwide have focused on making life easier for those living with mental disorders, I believe we must also pay attention to the ways relatives and loved ones who care for people with mental disorders are affected.
A study carried out in two predominantly rural areas in Ghana looked at the experience of caregivers of people living with serious mental disorders. Caregivers reported emotional distress, stigma, financial burden, lack of support networks, social exclusion and absence of decentralized mental health services. In Ghana, and other developing countries, coping strategies employed by caregivers include a sometimes fatal hope in a cure or faith in religious prayers.
We must also look at the long-lasting effects on family members who live with a parent, sibling or child who has a mental disorder. Parents play a major role in the lives of their children with mental disorders. Generally, parents notice any changes in their children’s behavior before anyone else does and in the event that their child has a mood disorder or even a developmental disorder such as autism, any form of detachment from their parent due to lack of knowledge on the issue can severely impact future outcomes.
Children are equally impacted by a parent who has a mental disorder. In the absence of social integration, support and reliable information on mental health, children are left in the dark with little to no understanding of what their parent or sibling is living with despite their desire to help. Not being able to share their experiences with others, children develop a fear and mistrust for others carrying on into adulthood.
With all that has been said,it must be highlighted that when living with someone with a mental disorder, it is important to learn about the illness and also to look after your mental state as much as you do for your loved one or client in the case of professional caregivers.
Finally, studies have shown that mental illnesses do run in families. However, they are influenced by environmental factors as much as they are genetically inclined, just like many other diseases. As much as they may need it, not everyone will want professional help. Being patient and supportive may just do the trick.
For more information on living with someone with a mental illness you can go to this link — https://www.rethink.org/carers-family-friends/what-you-need-to-know/supporting-someone-with-a-mental-illness
There are various support groups online and in your community, you are not alone!
By Funmilade Adeniyi-Taiwo( @ftaiwo on twitter).