Supporting a family member with a mental health issue

Lots of people have mental health problems, young and old. But if you live with someone who has a mental illness, it can be really tough. It’s important that you get support. You don’t have to do things on your own.

Looking after yourself

If your mum, dad, carer or sibling has a mental health problem, it can make life hard sometimes. It can lead to problems, like:

  • being separated from your mum or dad if they have to go to hospital
  • having to look after a parent, brother or sister (get help if you’re a young carer)
  • not being looked after properly (this is called neglect)
  • being teased or bullied by other people
  • family arguments.

It’s really tough if you have to see someone in your family suffering. But it’s also normal to be angry sometimes if someone you live with has a mental health problem. It can be frustrating if you feel like you’re responsible for their problems. You can love someone and still find it hard to live with them.

It's important you get support too. 

Things to remember:

  • it helps to find out more about the condition or illness 
  • you don’t have to deal with things on your own
  • you can get help from family, school or an adult you trust 
  • it’s important that you still have a social life and get to see your friends
  • don’t feel guilty if you sometimes feel angry or upset 
  • you shouldn’t feel ashamed of living with someone who has a mental illness.

Find out more about mental health

Mental health issues are really complicated. You can’t see them, but they can affect people just as much as a physical illness. So it can help to learn more about what your parent or sibling is going through - this way you might be able to help them.

You can understand more about mental illness here:

You can talk to us

Our counsellors are here to support you. Call free on 0800 1111 or try a 
1-2-1 chat online.

What you can do

How can I support someone with a mental health problem?

It can be helpful to:

  • encourage them to get help from a doctor - with the help of a professional, they can start to get better or find ways to cope
  • talk to them about how they feel - spending time with them and trying to do things they enjoy can really help
  • remember that it can take time to get better, so try to be patient
  • help them stay independent – set them goals for things to do around the house, like cooking or cleaning.

And remember, it’s important to get support for yourself too. Because helping someone else can be difficult. 

Having a brother or sister with a mental health issue

Having a brother or sister with a mental health worry can affect you in lots of different ways.

You might:

  • feel protective of them or like you’re responsible for them
  • get embarrassed if you’re in public
  • worry about how their mental health affects your family
  • not get all of the support you need or feel like you’re not important
  • feel angry about how they behave or that this has happened to them
  • worry about getting unwell too.

Try our top tips to help you cope

1. Ask for time with your family away from your brother or sister. It's okay to want time alone with your family.
2. Make a plan of what to do if things get too much. If your brother or sister gets angry, loud or upset, it can help to know how to react. You could make a plan with your family on what you should do, and when to get someone else to help you.
3. Listen to your brother or sister. It can help to listen to how they are feeling. And knowing that you’re there to support them can help them feel more able to cope.
4. Speak to someone you trust. You always deserve to feel supported. Whether it’s with someone in your family, a friend or an adult you trust, it can help to talk.

Will they get better?

If somebody you know has been diagnosed with a mental illness you might feel confused. Or frightened. Or even angry. It’s okay to feel like this. Mental illness is often hard to accept.

Although the causes of mental illness aren't fully understood, there are lots of effective treatments out there. If your parent, sibling or friend has been diagnosed with a mental illness, it's a positive step. This way, the doctors can start helping them get better.