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

Your attitude towards Mental Illness

Coming to terms with a family member's mental illness

is an important step in developing a realistic attitude that will help your family member and yourself work through their recovery.

Coming to terms:

Learning the many skills involved in being a carer enables one to help support someone with a mental illness to find the necessary support.
Developing a realistic attitude means becoming as informed and prepared as possible for this role.  It means working towards achieving a sense of balance (example: between meeting your own needs and those of the person you care for.)  but most of all, it means coming to terms with the psychological and emotional impact associated with a relative or friend experiencing mental illness.
It is important to understand that neither the person with the mental illness or you is to blame for it.  Distress about the illness may also have caused other emotional reactions within the family such as anger, guilt or shame.  Acknowledging these reactions is the first step towards resolving them.
It is important too, to understand that people affected by mental illness cannot deal with it simply by 'pulling themselves together' and that long term treatment and support are sometimes necessary.
Finally, an important part in coming to terms with the illness is learning to balance a realistic assessment of its effects with a hopeful determination to help the person achieve as great a level of recovery and independence as possible.
The importance of balance:
Developing a balance attitude often helps to support someone with a mental illness.
This means achieving some balance in your life.
A balance of expectations:
Try to adjust your expectations to the person's capabilities at the time.
A balance of help:
Try to be involved at a level that is in the best interest of the person you care for, and ensure that it is fair to others.
A balance of emotion:
Try to show your concern in a caring and matter-of-fact way, avoiding being over emotional or unemotional.
A balance of time:
Try to share time fairly between the person who has the mental illness, other family and friends and yourself.
A balance of activity:
Try to encourage a level of stimulating activity that is  always realistic, and at times that are convenient to you.
Being Prepared:
As well as coming to terms with a relative or friend having a mental illness, and developing a sense of balance and a positive attitude, you need to prepare yourself.
This means understanding some basic principles as well as taking practical steps to be ready for a carer role.
Some basic principles:

There are three basic principles to being a carer:

Realistic expectations:
It is important to accept the person as they are now, and to have sensible and realistic expectations of what can be achieved and how long that may take.  The person with the mental illness may also require some form of encouragement to accept realistic aspirations about their work or study.  These aspirations should be practical as well as positive and acknowledge the need to avoid undue stress and over working.
The need for stability:
It is unreasonable to expect progress if psychotic symptoms are severely disturbing the person with the illness.  Only when symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions and confused thinking are controlled, can the person begin to focus on the everyday things in life.  Taking medication is an essential first step in making this happen.
Encouragement of responsibility:
Mental illness can seriously lower a person's self esteem and sense of responsibility.  Encourage the person to act responsibly to themselves and to others as much as possible.  Development of personal responsibilities, with the dignity and respect that brings, should always be an important part of treatment and caring.
SF Taranaki is committed to supporting families/whanau in partnership with treatment providers, and advocates for family interventions as part of all treatment plans.
Tiaki Tume - Manager
Catherine Heaven    - Field Worker North Taranaki
Laura Douglas    - Field Worker South Taranaki
3rd Floor, Devon Building, Liardet Street, New Plymouth
Tel: (06) 757 9300


Current SF Taranaki support groups:

New Plymouth support group -1st Monday of month 5.30-7p.m. - Taranaki Disability Information Centre - 28 Young Street. New Plymouth.

Rural support group - 1st Friday of month 11a.m.-12.30 - Hawera Disability Information Centre.

Women's Support Group

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

Feedback is always welcome
Like Minds Taranaki - 06 759 0966 email:


Taranaki Mental Health Sector