Promoting mental health, demystifying mental illness, countering stigma and discrimination

Looking after Yourself

Family/Whanau - the unsung heroes of Mental Health.

"People with serious mental illness are not ill in isolation.
Their families, extended Whanau and significant others, whatever they think about the illness, cannot escape being affected by it.
The lives of people with serious mental illness are inextricably involved with the lives of those they love and care for, and the lives of those who love and care about them.
Beyond the immediate family are other relatives, friends, neighbours and workmates who may have a role in the life of the person and need, therefore,
to be part of the healing and maintenance plan"
Blueprint for mental Health Services in New Zealand.
(Mental Health Commission 1998)
Many families wish to be involved in assisting recovery of their family member.
This means that mental health professionals need to work with the
Family/Tangata Whaiora - sharing information, planning,

decision making - and providing support and education when necessary

"Research has conclusively shown that there are significant clinical,
social and economic advantages in providing
mental health services in a family inclusive way."

(World Schizophrenia Fellowship 1998)

The same principles apply today.

Click below to access more pages in this section.

Family/Whanau the unsung Heros of Mental Health

The Impact of Caring:

Whether it happens suddenly or comes on over time, caring brings with it great personal upheaval.  In order to keep on caring, it is important that you pay attention to your own needs, as well as those for whom you care.

Sometimes slowly, sometimes suddenly, you may become responsible for the primary care and support of someone you love.  It is part of the relationship we have with that person, part of being a spouse, parent, other relation, friend or neighbor etc.  However, disability and illness can alter the nature of this relationship.  Invariably, the stress generated by this change is in addition to the responsibilities you already bear.

Caring has a major impact on one's life.  It is important not to let it deprive you of your freedom, put other family relationships under strain or deprive you of your friends and other social activity.

Disturbed sleeping patterns and a loss of peace may become issues during the active phase of the illness.

Some of the consequences of being a carer may well be:
  • Social isolation
  • Increased health problems
  • Chronic excess stress
  • Despair
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of income
  • Emotional vulnerability
  • Anxiety
  • Loneliness
Take time to take stock:
  • Do you have sufficient energy for your daily needs?
  • Do you get moderate exercise throughout the week?
  • Do you regularly eat well-balanced meals?
  • Do you get sufficient sleep?
  • Are you often tired and fatigued?
  • How often in the week do you get any time for yourself?
  • How frequently do you do something that you enjoy?
  • Do you have regular contact with someone that you can talk to about yourself?
  • Is your sleep regularly disturbed?
  • Are there other demands that are impacting on you?
  • Have you felt stressed or emotionally overwrought recently?
  • Have you had feelings of panic, anxiety or generalised worry in the past week?

Some tips to help you cope:

Find out what you can about the illness.  Try and find what to expect and be prepared.  Ask questions from people who have experience in supporting mental illness.


The range of resources available to carers is increasing rapidly.  Please ask a staff member to assist you in accessing these.

Support groups:
Consider joining a support group so that you can learn more about mental illness, share your experiences, positive and negative, and gain confidence in what you are doing.

Contact SF (Supporting Families) Tel:06 757 9300 for more information.


Expect to have powerful and mixed emotions.  Try not to bottle them up.  Confide in family and friends.  Monitor your feelings and your stress levels.


Try to regularly review your expectations of yourself and others.  Get someone to help with this and check how realistic your expectations are. Don't be afraid to challenge  the expectations others have of you.

Ask for help!

Don't let things go from bad to worse before asking for help. Take time to discover your own warning signs of stress overload.  Aim to feel comfortable about letting people know when you need a bit of information, time, assistance or support.

Make time:

Always try to do something that you enjoy doing.  Use the respite care services available to you.  Don't feel guilty about taking time for yourself.

Look after yourself:

Make sure you don't ignore you own physical and mental health.  Eat a healthy and nutritional diet, get adequate rest, take gentle but regular exercise and keep on top of any underlying health problems you may have.  Don't put off seeing your own GP.

Like Minds Taranaki gratefully acknowledges the financial support of this website by the Ministry of Health

Feedback is always welcome

Taranaki Mental Health Sector