When a friend or family member has a mental illness

When a person is living with a serious mental illness, their family and friends are likely to be affected. It can be difficult to go about everyday life with them or to help and support them.

It can be especially difficult to help and support someone if they do not think they need any help or support. Equally, it can be just as hard if you find out that a friend or family member was struggling with their mental health problem which you did not notice. Neither of these situations make you a bad friend or relative. Often it can take a while for someone suffering with mental illness to talk to those closest to them and mental illness is not always easy to recognise.

What can I do if a family member or friend has a mental illness that affects me?

Understanding a bit more about the condition and how it is managed can help you feel better and more in control.  The Mind website has lots of information and support on the most common mental health issues. 

This Youtube video shows a young person living with a parent with mental health issues.

Talking to the person affected and sharing your thoughts and feelings can really help.  Together you can decide what steps to take to get help, or improve the situation.

Talk to someone you know and trust

It’s a good idea to speak to someone you know and trust about what you are going through. This could be a friend, family member, teacher or mentor-person. It feels good to offload and the other person may offer you good advice, or help you find the right support.

If you feel it difficult to talk to someone, that it's too hard to explain, or that they won't understand, or feel the same. The Young Minds website has some great tips to help you.

What if I suspect someone has a mental illness and I’m worried about them?

You can find out more about the condition, talk to the person, or share your thoughts and feelings with someone you know and trust.

You can also help to arrange professional support where needed.

  • If you are worried about a child or young person, speak to their parents, teachers, or GP, about making a referral to Merton's Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
  • If you are worried about an adult, speak to them about making a referral to MIAPT (Merton Mental Health Service) or the NHS Merton Assessment Team.  They can self-refer or get their GP to refer them.  If they don't want to listen to you, try speaking to another adult, or your GP, about a referral or other options.

Get professional support for yourself

If your own mental health is affected and you are struggling to cope, you may need professional help.  Talk to someone at school, or to your GP, about making a referral to Merton's Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).


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Page last reviewed: 20/06/2017

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