Mental health: Caregivers of mentally ill patients, deserve equal attention and care

A Pune-based Schizophrenia Awareness Association has arranged a national level Conference of Caregivers of People with mental illness. The meet is organised on September 10 at Schizophrenia Awareness Association, Dhayari

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The aim is to make caregivers aware of the strategies to cope up with the stress and other self-emotional management issues.

Taking care of a person struggling with a mental illness is no easy task and caregivers have to go through a lot, emotionally and physically, on a daily basis.  Being a caregiver comes with difficulties. They are more likely to have physical and mental health illnesses, a higher financial burden, and require work accommodations

There is unbearable loneliness, anxiety and depression-related issues of mental health caregivers. When they are responsible to take care of mentally ill patients, they feel that they also need special care and attention.

Sarika Chantak, joint secretary at Schizophrenia Awareness Association said, “Caregivers have financial stress. They are also worried who will look after their loved one once they are dead. They find it difficult to deal with their unpredictable future. Also, as they get relapses, managing mood swings of mentally ill patients become difficult. Caregivers need to be very careful about not to give triggers to patients.”

She added, “Many times caregivers are suffering from issues like migraine, blood pressure, diabetes etc. During the workshop, we are giving caregivers different coping strategies. We will also teach them how to do self-emotional management.”

Caring for a family member with a mental illness can be a taxing experience marked by personal sacrifices and psychological problems. Caregivers can experience high levels of stress, self-blame, substance abuse and depressive symptoms – unless they refocus their priorities and lighten their load.

If you are a caregiver of someone with a mental illness, it is normal to feel unprepared or confused about how to help them. Feelings of inadequacy are common.

Dr Vandana Chavan, a psychiatrist from Pune, said, “When caregivers are responsible for mentally ill patients, hardly anybody talks about mental health issues of caregivers.”

Dr Chavan explained, “Anxiety, depression, stress issues are common among those who are caregivers. There is need that such issues should be talked and discussed. Caregivers show higher levels of depression. They suffer from high levels of stress and frustration. They are also in worse health. Caregivers have an increased risk of heart disease and have lower levels of self-care themselves.”