Some Things Families Want Professionals to Know

Mental illness is often with us 24 hours a day as we care for our loved one. We may need help (or respite care) nights, holidays, or on weekends, not just from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

Recognize and respect the tremendous cost, both personal and financial, borne by families struggling with mental illness.

Stay abreast of advances in neurobiology, psychopharmacology, psychosocial rehabilitation, recovery and empowerment, and share this information with us.

Do not patronize, disregard, or blame us for our loved one's illness. We are usually doing the best we can under trying circumstances. Outdated psychiatric theories that blame schizophrenia on defective parenting diminish our ability to cope, and work against our efforts to care for our ill family member.

Remember that the mental health system can be terribly frustrating. We often endure long waiting lists for service and seemingly endless paperwork. It is easy to lose the human touch in the shuffle of patients.

Involve us meaningfully in developing and implementing and evaluating mental health services.

Help us to be well-informed, so we can be effective allies in the recovery process. We need to learn how to care for a mentally ill person and how to coordinate our efforts with service providers.

Help us to learn sophisticated, up-to-date methods for responding to our mentally ill loved one, such as effective communication skills and procedures for improving adherence with the prescribed medication.

We need to be told what resources are available in our community or region, how to access entitlements, and where the nearest family self-help group meets. Work in collaboration with families through your professional association to help us create the kinds of services you know we need.

For our safety, we must be taught how to respond to crisis situations, manage out-of-control behaviour, how to de-escalate high levels of anger and set proper boundaries.

Families new to the mental health system need to know they are not alone. As professionals, you can help your patients and their families by telling them about community mental health supports and services.

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