What challenges do you or someone you know face as a caregiver to a person with mental illness? What advice or tips can you share?
Thanks for the suggestion, Veena! Thanks too for the work that you do for CAL's C2C training programme and how CAL is supporting caregivers in Singapore.
thanks for sharing your challenges. I’m Veena, a Programme Manager with Caregivers Alliance Limited (CAL), a social service agency that supports caregivers of persons with mental health conditions. We at CAL conduct free Caregiver-to-Caregiver training programme, which emphasise on learning how to better relate to and connect with loved ones with mental health conditions as well as how to self-care well. Hope that you will join us in this training to better equip yourself.
Having experienced to have cared with this concern is very challenging and hearth breaking in the sense that you don't know how to stop the tears from falling and the every minute anticipation of a happy curve in its face.
But, through prayers and total surrender to our Almighty God, He leads us to people who can help us. Therefore, the untiring support of the family in whatever way possible is the key to total healing.
I have friends who have depression. It was difficult to understand that feeling of being unable to get out of the bed to function. I also struggle with saying the right words. But over time, I realised that listening without judgement and being curious to ask them about the condition or treatment is better than just assuming or avoiding the topic.
Not being a caregiver myself, I know my advice isn't going to be helpful to someone who is a caregiver. I have noticed that asking after someone is always appreciated, and it doesn't even have to any anything to do with caregiving or well-being directly -- sometimes it could be a relief for my friend to talk about something other than caregiving or her feelings. I've learnt that it is good to develop patience and let someone learn that they can trust you with their feelings, rather than insisting that we talk it out.
Thanks for sharing, Joanne. Listening is such an underrated skill. We'd probably not have the amount of relational and societal strife and misunderstanding in the world if we learned to sit with a loved one and quietly give them our full, unadulterated attention. Listening is loving and attention is love.
I am not a caregiver, but I do have a close friend with major depression disorder and anxiety. A difficulty I often face is truly understanding how he feels when he shares his thoughts and struggles with me.
At the start, I tended to be quick to suggest solutions, saying things like "You should try this, it worked for me" or "Don't think so much, there's nothing to be afraid about".
Over a few months of regular conversations, I've learnt that by always wanting to give him a solution, I wasn't really being there for him, instead, I was just trying to help him get out of his rut. So that life could be "normal" for him again. I've learnt that what works for my friend is to provide a sincere listening ear, to help talk through his thoughts, even if it might not be leading to a solution. He also told me that he is aware that his fears and anxiety are not based on logic, and each time someone gives him a logical solution, he feels even more overwhelmed.
So I guess my advice is to simply listen. As friends or family of people with mental illness, we are there for the long run. We are in the best position to provide comfort and strength, not always solutions, so that our loved ones can continue pushing on their recovery journey.