As a relative of someone who has a mental illness, you can be a great support to the sick person. It can be difficult and difficult, and can sometimes involve a great deal of responsibility. In the long run, it is important that you take care of yourself and receive support and relief.
This article is for those of you who are related to someone living with a mental illness. If you are under 18, you can also read about when an adult in the family is not feeling well.
Mental illness is a collective name for several different diseases, the most common being schizophrenia. Here you can read more about different psychoses.
To live with someone who has a mental illness
Those who are developing a psychosis often have anxious thoughts on life and may feel very depressed. They may have delusions, hallucinations, and disorders of the mind.
It is common to have difficulty sleeping in connection with a psychosis. This may mean that your relatives sleep much more than before, or do not sleep at all at night. Many who get a psychosis forget to take care of their hygiene and to eat properly. You can read more about the symptoms of psychosis in this text.
As a relative, it can feel difficult to support and help the sick person.
Hard to get in touch
You may have difficulty getting in touch when you talk to the person who is ill. They may not answer your questions or ignore them at all. They can get angry and get angry outbursts for reasons you don’t understand.
It is common for them to become sensitive to different impressions, such as background sounds and visual impressions. They can also become sensitive to stress and have difficulty coping with sudden changes. It is also common for those who are ill to withdraw and isolate themselves.
It may feel like the person who is ill doesn’t listen to what you say, but it doesn’t have to be. It is common for people who have had psychosis afterward to say that the support from the surroundings has been crucial to their recovery.
For those living with a psychotic illness, fantasies can sometimes be perceived as real and often do not feel as sick. Therefore, it is rarely the one who is ill that seeks care, but it is you as a relative who contacts the care. It can feel like a great responsibility to bear, especially if you are alone.
Many people living with psychotic illnesses need to use drugs for a long time. Sometimes you as a relative may have to remind you to continue to medicate, even if it does not feel like it is needed then.
It can be difficult to know how to behave in order not to take over, or to do something that is wrong for the sick person. At the same time, you feel anxious if you notice that they don’t seem to be doing well.
You may feel that you need to be available all the time, to be able to set up should something happen. It can cause you to become very tired, and not be able to take care of yourself. Then you may need support from the surroundings.
To be involved in the treatment
It is good if you can be involved in the planning of your relatives’ treatment of psychotic illness if your relatives want it. The healthcare staff also usually want to have a good collaboration with close relatives, as it is good for the recovery.
One form of meeting is the so-called psychopedagogical family meetings. It is your relatives who decide who should attend these meetings. For example, friends may also be invited. Together you can get information about the disease, symptoms, and treatment of mental illness, and you will, among other things, learn what you can do to support the person who has become ill.
Establish a crisis plan
Participating as a relative in the preparation of a crisis plan is valuable for both the patient and the care, but also for you as a relative. If the patient invites you as a relative to such a meeting, you will learn how to recognize early symptoms, and what to do then. This may involve, for example, contacting health care or reminding you to take certain medicines.
At the meetings, you can decide what will happen if your close relatives get worse. You as a relative often notice faster if the illness returns, than the one who is ill. What you come up with must be written down in a document called crisis plan. It is important that you follow what is in the emergency plan during an illness.
If your relatives receive treatment from both psychiatry and the social services, you can receive an invitation to a so-called coordinated individual planning, which is often abbreviated to SIP. Coordination takes place by having coordination meetings, so-called SIP meetings.
SIP can be good support for you by making it clear who is responsible for what. In psychiatry on the one hand, and in the social services on the other.
You can take the initiative for a SIP yourself, but the one in question must be included in it. Your relatives may also request a so-called permanent care contact, which can help, for example, to book a health care visit. Read more about regular care contact and SIP here.
In all decisions that are made about the treatment of psychotic illness or support measures, the person who is ill must take part in deciding what is known as shared decision-making. This applies, for example, to decisions on medicines and support measures. Shared decision-making does not apply in the case of forced care, that is, care against the will of the sick.
The staff has a duty of confidentiality
The staff may not always answer the questions that concern the patient because they have a duty of confidentiality. This applies even if you are involved in the treatment.
But you can often talk to health care professionals and ask for advice. Sometimes they can advise who to contact for more help.
When should I contact healthcare?
Contact a health center or psychiatric ward if you suspect that your loved one is getting or has a psychosis.
Follow the emergency plan if there is one.
Seek care immediately if the person hears voices they cannot resist
Seek care at a psychiatric or emergency room if you suspect the person is hearing voices urging them to do things they cannot resist.
What happens when I have contacted the healthcare system?
You must first tell us what happened when you contact a psychiatric clinic or health care center. The staff you talk to then make an assessment. Sometimes it can mean that healthcare personnel come home to the sick person.
The caregiver then decides if your relative needs hospital care or can be cared for at home. The staff can also ask you to go directly to a psychiatric emergency room. It may be best if the person needs care quickly.
Sometimes the person can receive care even if they do not want it, so-called forced care.
Care at home
Those who are ill can sometimes receive care at home or with a relative. It is common if they have had a psychosis before and voluntarily receive help. Then you have regular contact with the healthcare staff. It is especially important to have contact often at the beginning of psychosis.
If you suffer from psychosis for the first time, are very affected or show signs of wanting to harm yourself or others, you often need to get hospital care.
You can often stay in hospital for a couple of weeks to a month. You can usually visit their relatives, but you may need to call the department first.
When the person does not want care
Sometimes your relatives may need to be hospitalized even if they do not want to. It is a doctor who decides on compulsory care .
When your relatives are under compulsory care they can get a support person. It may take some time before you meet if they do not want to have contact during that time. Then you can have contact with the support person.
You may need to support yourself
It can feel heavy to support someone who has a mental illness. It is not uncommon for yourself to end up in crisis .
It is common to get feelings of guilt when someone is feeling bad. The feelings of guilt can make it difficult to prioritize yourself and what you want to do. You may forgo important things in your own life.
In the long run, it is not a good solution. You need to take care of yourself to feel good. You may also need support and relief to cope in the long run.
Don’t forget yourself
Make sure you have time to recover if you have a lot of stress in your everyday life. Try to get enough sleep, move your body and eat healthy food at regular times. Try to take the time to do things you like and that make you feel good.
When you have a lot of concern for your loved one, it can be difficult to perform as usual. Talk to your employer if you work, or to student health if you study. You may then be able to find solutions together.
Ask for practical help
Ask your friends or the municipality for practical help. The municipality may have various forms of support to relatives , such as relief or short-term housing for the sick person.
Seek care when you need it
Pay attention to your own health. Many relatives become ill due to fatigue syndrome or depression .
You may also need call support to process your own experiences. Contact a health care center if you need assistance. Many health centers have curators or psychologists that you can talk to. Often it is enough.
If you need more support, you may sometimes need a referral to more specialized care.
What can I get for support?
Sometimes the psychiatric reception or care department may have group meetings for relatives, and sometimes the municipalities have different forms of family groups. There may also be individual support for you who are related. Contact your region or municipality to find out what is where you live. Read more about family support here.
Group calls can provide support
Most patients and close associations , or user associations as they are also called, have meetings where you can meet other close relatives.
It can be very valuable to talk to others who are in the same situation as yourself. It can give you a feeling of being less lonely and vulnerable, and can make you feel better. It can be nice to talk to people who understand your situation.
Even when you are unable to be active in the conversation, it can be good to meet. You don’t have to explain, or apologize. The others understand if you are tired and sad, because they probably have felt the same way.
Nice to be able to give support to others
It can feel good to be able to help others by telling them how you are doing and how you have done in different situations. You can gain new perspectives on your situation when you talk to others about your experiences.
It can also help you understand your problems when you hear how others in similar situations are doing.
The municipality can arrange activities
Sometimes the municipality can arrange activities where several close relatives do things together. For example, there may be excursions or evening classes where you learn something new. Contact your municipality or read on their website to find out what activities they have.
Sometimes there is a family consultant in your municipality. Both the associations and the municipality can have education or lectures with invited lecturers.
If needed, you can sometimes get some form of counseling with support and concrete advice on how you can act in different situations. An important part of counseling is that you get help with how you can be compassionate, affirming and supportive of the person who is ill, while setting reasonable limits on what to do.
Children as close relatives
You who are an adult can be involved in your relatives’ recovery if they wish. Even underage children can be involved, if the child and the person concerned wants it. However, children should not have to take responsibility for any part of the adult’s recovery.
In the article When an adult in the family is not feeling well and in the article When a parent is feeling mentally ill on the UMO website there is more information for the child.
Through various patient and close associations, national associations and organizations you can get in touch with other close associates. Many also have information for children and adolescents under the age of 18 who have an adult in the family with mental illness.
Relatives’ national association
Riksförbundet The Relatives Riksförbund is an organization that supports close relatives, regardless of the diagnosis of the sick person. It does not have to be a diagnosis in mental illness.
The National Association also has local associations where you can get in touch with other close associates.
The family line is the National Federation’s support telephone and can give you support and advice. Those who respond are themselves related to a great deal of experience.
National Collaboration for Mental Health, NSPH
National Collaboration for Mental Health, NSPH, is a network consisting of several organizations. NSPH works in various ways to raise awareness and promote mental health. For example, the project The Family Project , and the Confederation (H) ironclad who want to pay attention to mental ill-health in working life and in society.
National competence center, NKA
On the National Competence Center website, you can find information that is aimed at relatives, regardless of the diagnosis of the sick person . For example, it could be a disability or illness due to age. National competence centers are often shortened to NKA.
NKA also has filmed children that describe when a parent becomes mentally ill. You will also find more comprehensive information for children who are related.
National Association for Social and Mental Health, RSMH
The National Association for Social and Mental Health, RSMH, is an organization that works to increase knowledge about mental ill-health in society. RSMH also has local associations.
The Schizophrenia Association is an interest organization for people with schizophrenia and similar psychosis. but also has local associations. They also have a related page.
Voluntary organizations, such as the Fountain House and the Red Cross , have meetings and conversation groups for close associates. The hits can be in a hospital or near the hospital.
More organizations and guides
In the article Patient and related associations there are more links to patient and related associations. There are also several different guides you can call or chat with for support.