Self care is one of the most important things that a family can do to keep themselves well. It is something that they struggle with all the time. Families need to remember that they deserve to live their lives. Here are some simple and effective coping tips that we encourage families to consider.

The Four C’s

  • You didn’t CAUSE the mental illness.
  • You can’t CURE the mental illness.
  • You can’t CONTROL the mental illness.
  • You can COPE with the mental illness.

14 Principles for Family Members on How to Cope:

  1. Realize that mental health issues are not rare.
  2. Learn as much as possible, as soon as possible.
  3. Don’t blame yourself – it can destroy your chances of coping forever.
  4. Seek professional helpers who are effective.
  5. Contact a self-help group for family members and caregivers.
  6. Accept that mental health challenges are complex. Our natural instincts can be an unreliable guide. Relatives need training.
  7. Get to know the origins of pressures to which family members are subject.
  8. Pay special attention to the needs of other members of the family.
  9. Remember that unlimited, unconditional self-sacrifice on behalf of someone with a mental health challenge is fatal to effective caring and coping.
  10. Be aware that spending massive amounts of time with your loved one who is experiencing the mental health issue can make matters worse.
  11. Maintain friendships, activities and hobbies, particularly those that will take you outside the home.
  12. Set your sights on appropriate independence for your loved one & yourself.
  13. Don’t be surprised to find that the ability to change and look at things differently distinguishes relatives who can cope from those who can’t.
  14. Take very good care of yourself.


  • Develop realistic expectations for your family member and yourself.
  • Work towards accepting the illness and its challenging consequences.

Let go of the guilt

  • Remember that no family is perfect.
  • Whatever you did, or did not do; you did not cause your family member’s illness.

Get the facts

  • Continue to educate yourself about your family member’s illness.

Don’t forget about your own health

  • Eat right, exercise, and stay healthy.
  • Find a new hobby for yourself and the person who is ill. Remember to laugh, take walks and nurture yourself.

Create a support network

  • Join a support group. You’ll be amazed how great it is to make new friends who understand about what you are going through.
  • Accept all the help and support you can get. Don’t be afraid to ask!
  • Every problem is a solution waiting to happen.

Fresh thinking

  • Try thinking in terms of “brain” illness, instead of mental illness.
  • This can be helpful in dealing with both external and internal stigma.
  • If you feel that you are “going in circles”, take a break. Try to be creative if the old approach is no longer working.
  • Stay optimistic.

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