By Althea Fernandes

It’s never easy to watch a loved one struggle with mental health issues. It can be especially difficult if you are responsible for providing care in some way. The good news is that there are things you can do to provide support and prevent the situation from getting worse.

Meet your loved one’s needs in the best way you can

Start a conversation. It can be difficult to open up about mental health, but it is important to start the dialogue and express your concerns. This will help you and your loved one understand the situation better and create a plan of action.

Ask questions about what they need from you and be specific and realistic about the ways you can support them. This is a long-term situation. Be prepared for ups and downs

Learn about the illness

It is important to educate yourself on the illness your loved one is facing. The more informed and educated we are about these conditions, the better equipped we are at helping them.

Don’t blame yourself for your loved one’s behaviour

It’s important to remember that you aren’t responsible for your loved one’s behaviour. You can’t control their actions, and you shouldn’t feel guilty if they do something that hurts you or others around them (easier said than done, I know).

Watch for warning signs

It’s also important not to ignore the warning signs of a mental health crisis in your loved one: You may notice them acting strangely or experiencing changes in sleep patterns, and/or they may withdraw from friends, family or hobbies they once enjoyed. If any of these signs are present – and especially if several are showing up at once – that could be an indication of a serious problem on its way.

If this happens, don’t hesitate! Talk to your loved ones and get help by contacting a professional such as a doctor or therapist who specializes in treating people with mental health problems.

Take care of yourself, too

In order to be a good caregiver, you need to take care of yourself. This means getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, exercising and seeking support from family and friends. Consider joining a support group or talking to a professional yourself.

Consider taking a break. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s okay to take time for yourself. Ask for help during difficult times.