12 Ways to Care for Yourself While Caring for Someone with Mental Illness

This article originally ran on LDS Living in June 2015.

If someone you love struggles with mental illness—whether it’s depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, addiction, or another mental health challenge—life can be very difficult for them. But it can also be challenging for you and others who love them.

I read once that when one family member is mentally ill, it can be as if the whole family has a mental illness because establishing emotional equilibrium for everyone can be difficult. That being said, it’s important to keep in mind that no two situations are alike. For example, in some cases, the person with the mental illness has a strong awareness of their situation, which can be very helpful; however, in other situations, the person who is struggling may have limited or no awareness of their illness. 

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Whatever the case may be, when someone you love suffers from mental illness, it can be easy to neglect your own well-being, further intensifying an already challenging situation. If your loved one is struggling, give yourself (and them) a gift by taking good care of yourself. Such self-care will make life less stressful and will help you meet their needs.

Here are 12 suggestions to get you started: 

1. Tap into the Power of Prayer.

12 Ways to Care for Yourself While Caring for Someone with Mental Illness

Few things make someone feel less lonely in their struggles than a deep and consistent connection with Heavenly Father. Make your personal prayers a priority.

Roll onto your knees first thing every morning; connect with the one who will be there for you no matter what. Pour your heart out—your worries, your fears, and your anxieties about supporting your loved one. Tremendous spiritual power and comfort can come from consistently bookending our days with heartfelt prayers. And additional power can come from pausing to pray whenever needed.

2. Seek Spiritual Nourishment.

Loving and supporting someone who suffers from mental illness can be tremendously depleting, so make a commitment to nourish yourself spiritually. You will benefit, but so will those around you, especially your loved one.

A focused study of general conference talks and scriptural passages can be particularly helpful in your situation. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s October 2013 conference talk “Like a Broken Vessel” is a great place to begin. 

3. Educate Yourself.

Learn everything you can about your loved one’s particular illness. Read a book, take a course, talk to a medical expert, and use reliable online resources such as the National Institute of Health. Learn how to speak with your loved one, how to set boundaries when needed, and how to encourage them to get the medical care they need.

The more you know and understand about your loved one’s particular challenges, the more of a help you can be to them. And that is good for both of you.

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