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Sarah Cannon's 15-year old daughter, Emily was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when she was five. (Peter Power/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
Sarah Cannon's 15-year old daughter, Emily was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when she was five. (Peter Power/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)

STATE OF MIND PART 2: COLLATERAL DAMAGE

When mental illness becomes part of the family Add to ...

Chris Duval tried, and failed, many times to live on his own, and staying home was difficult for a grown man. So, for nine years, he has lived in supportive housing, stable but still very sick and requiring a lot of help.

“This arrangement works for Chris. He needs supports to live his life with dignity,” his mother says. “It has also given us our family life back. We can have a relationship now.”

(See Amanda Tétrault's photos of her father at www.amandatetrault.com)

14 PRINCIPLES FOR FAMILY MEMBERS ON HOW TO COPE

1 Realize that mental illness is 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 families.

6 Accept that mental illness is 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 illness is fatal to effective caring and coping.

10 Be aware that spending massive amounts of time with the person who has a mental illness 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 relative and 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.

Source: British Columbia Schizophrenia Society



André Picard is The Globe and Mail's public health reporter.

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