Family and Caregiver Information
Watching someone you care about suffer with mental illness can make you feel helpless. Our supports can help you get off the sidelines and become an active participant in mental illness by empowering you with education, resources and an action plan to support those you care about to make informed decisions.
Family Support Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Who is able to access family support?
We consider a family member to be anyone who identifies as a significant person in an individual’s life. This can be a parent, sibling, extended family member, partner, friend, or any other significant other. We are willing to offer support to anyone the client identifies, as long as both parties consent to that person’s involvement.
What kind of support is available to families?
CMHA offers a drop-in Family Support group, which is designed specifically for family members who are caring for loved ones with a mental illness. By coming together with professionals and other caregivers, they can increase their knowledge about mental health, different resources within the community, gain skills, and learn practical strategies from other caregiver experiences. They will then be better able to contribute to their loved ones recovery process and at the same time promote their self-care.
CMHA also offers a 10-week Family and Caregiver Education program. This structured group assists families and caregivers to increase their knowledge of mental illnesses, get support, and obtain the tools they need to make informed decisions. Topics include information on access to pharmacy, case management, boundaries, communication and more.
What is my role as a family member?
We, at CMHA, want to actively involve the loved ones of the people we serve because the individual’s environment is an important factor in his or her recovery. Your knowledge of, and commitment to, your loved one plays a key role in our work with him or her, in all stages of our work together. This is of course with the consent of the individuals we serve.
What can I do to support my loved one?
- Be an active participant in your loved one’s recovery journey while allowing space for them to explore their own treatment and life choices.
- Appreciate your loved one and accept them for whom they are in this moment, while also holding on to hope that they can achieve their goals and recover. Hope is contagious, even in times of despair.
- Be willing to set realistic limits and boundaries for your loved one and for yourself. This can help create a sense of peace in times of chaos.
- Voice your concerns with respect and be honest with your loved one.
- Take good care of yourself so that you are able to find moments of joy through tough times.
For more information on Family Support programs, please contact Central Intake at 1-866-345-0183, ext. 3321.
Tips for Communicating With Family Members
Often times, when someone is experiencing mental health challenges, their communication can be affected. It can be helpful to be aware of conditions that support healthy communication, as well as the factors that can become a barrier.
- Try to use “I” statements rather than “you” statements to express your concern.
- Remember that discussions especially about important items may be overwhelming. Try to foster patience and reduce as much stress as possible.
- Be sure to give clear, simple, one step directions. Small amounts of information at a time is best.
- Focus on feelings and needs. Remember that you cannot understand what your loved one is experiencing. Remain curious. g. Can you tell me more about that?
- Try to avoid engaging in long discussions; focus on one prioritized topic at a time.
- Be aware of the potential to put pressure on your loved one to speak with you. Sometimes space is important for recovery and your priorities may likely be different than theirs.
- Engage without expectation. Discover things you can do together and try to put your desire to engage with them aside to focus on what they might need.
- Be aware of the environment. Sometimes too much stimulus (noise, sights, etc) can be distracting and/or overwhelming.
- Ask for permission to engage in discussions, especially important ones. Ask your loved one what they want to talk about.
- If there are important items to discuss let them know that you want to have the conversation, and ask them to come to you when they feel ready to discuss. Encourage these interactions when everyone feels ready to have them.
11. LISTEN! Although we often want to gain information and understanding, one of the most powerful tools for supporting others is to provide a safe space for them to share openly and honestly without fear of judgment. Avoid interrupting, criticizing or giving advice. Express your concern and willingness to listen and be there for the person.
12. Be calm. Choose a good time and place to converse; one without distraction or interruption.
13. Reflective listening: Use mirroring techniques to verify your understanding of what has been communicated. E.g. I hear you saying … Did I get that right?
14. Express compassion for what they are feeling. Stay positive and supportive. Convey hope. Recognize and praise your loved one’s strengths and progress.
15. Ask your loved one if there is someone else that they identify as an advocate that can assist them with communicating with you if they do not feel able to speak to you.
16. Engage with your loved one outside of the “illness” related activities. Have fun together.
17. Process your own emotions with someone else. Remember that your loved one’s behaviour may be a symptom of their mental illness.