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help for carers

Caring for and about someone with mental illness can be very demanding on you in many ways - emotionally, physically and perhaps financially

Caring for and about someone with mental illness can be very demanding on you in many ways – emotionally, physically and perhaps financially. Learning how to support yourself when you’re caring for someone will help not only the person who is ill, but also you, other family members, and friends.

Who is a carer?

A carer is someone of any age who has to change their lifestyle in order to care for a family member, partner, friend or neighbour in need of long term support. A carer does not necessarily have to live with the person they support, and caring can be physical and emotional support such as helping someone seek help for their mental health problem, or supporting with day-to-day tasks such as cooking, cleaning or personal care.

A carer is not paid for providing care and support, although there may be financial assistance available. Our Mental Health and Money Advice service might be able to help you with any financial worries impacting your mental health.

Looking after yourself

It is important that we look after ourselves and our own mental health so that we may continue to care for others. Finding things that help you relax is important, and taking time out for yourself is essential to protect your own mental health.

Looking after your physical health is also vital. Carers often experience poorer physical and mental health as a result of their caring role and often ignore their own physical health, which can lead to further health issues. It is important to eat well, exercise and sleep well, which can be encouraged with support and therapies that enable you to kickstart a more healthy lifestyle. Find out about activities that might be available to you in your area.

Other activities you can do to ensure your wellbeing include:

  • Take some ‘me’ time: Focus your energy on a hobby or activity that brings you joy. That could be reading a book, watching your favourite film, listening to music, or socialising.
  • Connect with others: Take time out of your day to chat with friends or family and be as open with them as possible
  • Nourish your body: Allow your body to feel good by eating a good meal, wearing comfortable clothes or exercising, which can make the brain feel good.
  • Write your feelings down: Putting pen to paper can be a stress reliever and help you rationalise and accept your experiences.


Communicating with or about someone with mental illness can be very difficult for a number of reasons. However, an essential part of supporting the person is by maintaining good communication with your cared for person. Sometimes communication can be difficult when people are unsure what to say or because the relationship has broken down, which can be distressing for carers. Here are some suggestions for good communication as a carer:

  • Who needs to know?: Think about who need to know, what they need to know, and what the cared for person wants people to know. Your cared for person always has a right to confidentiality and so do you.
  • Accuracy: When sharing information with people, it is important to provide them and yourself with accurate, up-to-date information about the illness, reassurance about the effectiveness of the support being received, and guidance in ways of being supportive as a collective. You will need to consider the wishes and sensitivities of the person who is experiencing the illness. All discussions around the illness should be gentle but honest.
  • Communication skills: A communication skill is showing interest by practicing good eye contact. You will listen to understand rather than respond, paraphrase and reflect on what has been said, withhold judgement and advice, and ask open-ended questions to engage. This will keep the conversation positive and make the person feel heard and valued.

Getting support

You may feel that it is more important for the person in your care to receive care and support, and that you do not need support for yourself. However, research has shown that people who care for their relatives and friends may feel isolated or have poor mental and physical health themselves, and it is important that you seek support for yourself. Here are some types of support available for carers:

  • Talking therapies: this safe space with a trained professional to talk about your worries and how you’re feeling can enable you to explore how looking after someone affects you.
  • Peer support groups: There is good evidence that discussion with those who have had similar experiences can help people to develop effective coping strategies.
  • Change Mental Health: We offer Carer Support in Highland, Tayside, Fife, Edinburgh and Dumfries and Galloway. Our Carer Support Workers have expertise and detailed understanding of the issues that affect carer and people with mental illness through emotional support and one-to-one or peer group support.


Our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that most fits your needs, including our Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies.

Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page.

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