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Coping with Mental Illness as a Caregiver

July 16, 2015 11:59 AM with Neely Benn

Millions of Americans suffer from some form of a mental illness such as depression, anxiety disorders or addictive behaviors. Living with a mental illness can be a stressful process for an individual as well as those that support and care for them. Neely Benn, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker at NorthShore, will answer your questions about how to manage, cope and deal with your family member with a mental illness. She’ll share her knowledge and offer tips on how to be a successful caregiver. Submit your questions now.

  Kathyn (Moderator) - 11:45 AM:
This chat is scheduled to begin at 12. You can submit questions now or at any point during the chat.

  Julie (Libertyville IL) - 12:01 PM:
How do you cope with someone, who is of adult age, who refuses to do what is necessary to take care of themselves? Won't take meds (except for medical marijuana), eats poorly, doesn't keep a good sleep schedule and most importantly refuses to see a therapist - which is preventing him from getting on disability -which places a huge financial burden on other family members.
Neely Benn (NorthShore)
Thank you, Julie for this question. It is very diffult to see our loved ones facing such challenges. It sounds like you want so much to help and support him, however he's not receptive. The first thing I would consider is when he does have a day in which he is compliant (either eats well, might get in a good night's sleep), it's so important to validate and support this positive behavior. Statements like, "It's so wonderful to see you eat well today. You seem to be feeling better," are so important in this process. However, in the end, you can't make someone seek treatment. You have a right to your thoughts and feelings, bad or good. It's important to remember to take care of yourself perhaps speaking with a therapist or joining a support group to help you learn techniques to manage this stress. Again, thank you for this question. You are not alone, and we have a terrific support group here if you are interested.

  Alonda (Dolton, IL) - 12:11 PM:
My 18 year old son was recently diagnosed with anxiety due to him eating 3 brownies laced with Marijuana June 30th. Since the episode of being rushed to the hospital for tachycardia. He's been having panic attacks at night. What can we do as parents to reassure him, he'll be ok

  Julie (Libertyville, IL) - 12:22 PM:
Thanks for your answer. Where can I find the information about the support group you mentioned?
Neely Benn (NorthShore)
I have it right here for you! It's through NorthShore: Family Psychoeducation, Skill Building and Support Program. It is at Evanston Hospital every Wednesday night from 6-7 in room 5200. It's free and ongoing! Your experiences are very valuable and will resonate with many. It would be terrific to have you!

  Toni (Lake Forest) - 12:27 PM:
Are there any good ways to de-stress after having a rough day with an autistic child? I feel like I don't have a way to vent after calming him down, and don't want to end up blowing up at my little boy.
Neely Benn (NorthShore)
I love this question, Toni! Many of us are overwhelmed and can identify with your situation. The good news is, you have asked how to find outlets. The better news is, this indirectly tells me that you understand you deserve it! You must take care of yourself. There are so many ways to de stress. Mindfulness practices are wonderful. This includes meditation. Here's a great resource: Another is a phone app named, "Calm." Also, it's important to remember your hobbies. What makes you feel purposeful? Cooking? Drawing? Scrap booking? It's important to have a list at hand that reminds you of all of your strengths and interests. Other outlets include taking a walk, calling friends or family, exercising (I STRONGLY recommend this), massage therapy or yoga. It's important to recognize what you love and what makes you feel calm and centered.

  Paula (Chicago) - 12:38 PM:
I have a very strong suspicion my husband is suffering from depression/severe anxiety. He refuses to admit it & will not seek help even though I think it would be a great help to him. How can you convince the unconvinced that seeking help doesn't mean you're weak or mentally disabled? He has a history of mental illness in his family, and suffered from depression as a teenager.
Neely Benn (NorthShore)
Hello Paula! Thank you for this question. It sounds like you really care about your husband and his well being. Your words are strong: how CAN you "convince the unconvinced?" First, I would recommend that you validate his experiences. As you know, depression is not a choice. It is a very real state of being that often deprives individuals of experiencing joy and success. As a dedicated family member, here are some validating statements to share: “I’m sorry you are experiencing such pain right now. How can I help you? “We will get through this together.” “You are not alone. I am here for you.” “You have so much to look forward to, and I will help you rediscover these things.” “I can only imagine what you are experiencing, but I will do the best I can.” Perhaps once this nurturing space is created, when he is not at a low point, you can talk about the profound courage and strength it takes to make a decision to improve his life and address his needs. This is not's bravery.

  Dahlia (Aurora) - 12:49 PM:
What kind of support groups are there for young children who are battling illnesses like depression? It seems like a lot of them are more for adults. I'm hoping my daughter can meet other kids her age so she won't feel so alone.
Neely Benn (NorthShore)
Hello Dahlia! Great question. One of the most difficult obstacles to face is the idea of feeling alone or different. There is nothing more soothing than knowing there are other people out there sharing a similar experience. Here are two resources: The Depression and Bipolar Disorder Support Alliance and Insight ( I also recommend if you haven't already, find a support for yourself, whether that be a support group for you or individual therapy. Your feelings and experiences are important and meaningful. You deserve all the care and compassion that you provide for your daughter.

  Kathyn (Moderator) - 1:00 PM:
This will be the end of our chat today. Thank you everyone for your questions.

  Kathyn (Moderator) - 1:03 PM:
To learn more about coping with mental illness and finding services for your loved ones and yourself, visit NorthShore's Outpatient Psychiatric & Psychotherapy Services.

This chat has ended.

Thank you very much for your participation.