How to relate to the person you care for

To witness a person in mental distress can be a frightening and bewildering experience. Many carers have described it as living with someone who has turned into a stranger. It can be difficult to know how to react, talk and behave. Every person is different and there are no set rules, but we can provide some general guidelines.

  • Be yourself
  • Gain as much information as you can on the condition and remember that the person may be behaving and talking differently due to their symptoms
  • Understand that mental illness is stressful for everyone and try to accept that you may experience a range of feelings, such as shock, fear, sadness, anger, frustration and despair
  • Talking with other people will help you to deal with these feelings. It’s important to believe the person will recover, even if it will take some time and patience
  • Try not to take it personally if the person says hurtful things to you when they are unwell
  • When they are unwell, some people may express unusual beliefs and ideas. Don’t get involved in long disagreements, but listen with interest to gain an understanding of their current reality and help them find a way of being less frightened or anxious
  • Above all it is important to take care of yourself and not become too stressed or run down.

Family, partners and friends are very important. When a person is experiencing an acute episode of distress, you can provide love, stability, understanding and reassurance, as well as help with practical issues.