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Support for Families and Caregivers

Families can play an important role in supporting a loved one with a mental health or addiction condition. Family members often deal with crises, assist with system navigation, serve as informal case managers, encourage and support treatment, secure housing, arrange for income assistance, monitor symptoms and maintain records of previous treatments, medications and hospitals.

Family members may experience anxiety, stress, shame, self-blame, depression, fear and anger. Mental health and addiction problems can also have an impact on a family’s employment and financial situation. This is the result of the additional stresses and time demands of care giving, as well as the actual costs of supporting an individual who may not be financially independent. In one study, 45% of caregivers of people with schizophrenia indicated they rarely or never get social support from family and friends. Without sufficient supports themselves, family members are at-risk of poor health themselves.

People dealing with mental health and addictions conditions in their family can initially not have adequate information regarding the problem, treatment or available resources. Over time, they may feel that they are not adequately regarded for their knowledge of their family member and contribution to the mental health and addictions system. This situation is beginning to change as more family-to-family support becomes available and service providers more actively involve families in planning to improve the navigation and quality of the mental health and addictions system.

Resources

The Family Outreach and Response organization offers recovery-oriented mental health support services to families.

The Family Association for Mental Health Everywhere (FAME) offers support to families where any mental illness is an issue by providing education, resources and coping strategies.

The Mood Disorders Association of Ontario and its chapters across Ontario provide a range of peer-based, self-help support groups. Some groups are for the person with the mental illness alone, others include the person with the mental illness and his or her family members.

The Schizophrenia Society and its many local chapters offer self-help support groups for family members of individuals with schizophrenia.

The NAMI Family-to-Family Education Program is a free, 12-week course for family caregivers of individuals with severe mental illnesses.

The Government of Canada offers various forms of assistance for caregivers. Service Canada has established a list to help you prepare for this role.

Related Documents

Caring Together: Families as Partners in the Mental Health and Addiction System. Family Mental Health Alliance, CMHA Ontario et al. 2006

Working together towards recovery: Consumers, families, caregivers and providers. Canadian Collaborative Mental Health Initiative. 2006.