Although there are different types of mental illness and symptoms, family members and friends of those affected share many similar experiences. There is a lot you can do to help your friend or relative. However, you need to look after yourself too. To be suffering from a psychiatric condition is by many described as a painful and sometimes traumatic experience. When someone close to you goes through this you will not only be affected because s/he is in pain, your life will be affected in a number of other ways. It can affect your financial situation, how and where you live and work.
Mental illness can lead to a variety of emotional effects for brothers and sisters of the affected person. For example, they may feel:
Confusion about their siblings changed behaviour.
Embarrassment about being in the affected persons company.
Jealous of their parents attention.
Resentment about not being like their peers.
Fear of developing the mental illness.
You should decide what level of support and care you are realistically able to provide. Explain this to the friend or relative with the mental illness as well as the health professionals involved in their care (for example, the psychiatrist or case manager). This will ensure that the type of support you are unable to provide can be arranged in another way.
When mental illness first strikes, family members may deny the person has a continuing illness. During the acute episode family members will be alarmed by what is happening to their loved one.
Families may also have little knowledge about mental illness. They may believe that it is a condition that is totally disabling.
Even when all members of the family have the knowledge to deal with mental illness, the family is often reluctant to discuss their family member with others because they do not know how people will react. After all, myths and misconception surround mental illness.
It is difficult for anyone to deal with strange thinking and bizarre and unpredictable behavior. Imagine what it must be for families of people with mental illness. It is bewildering, frightening and exhausting. Even when the person is stabilized on medication, the apathy and lack of motivation can be frustrating.
Obviously such constant stress and concern can create serious family problems. Family life can be unsettled and unpredictable. It becomes very difficult, often impossible, to plan for family outings or vacations or to have even the simplest gathering at home.