“It’s not until recently that I’ve actually disclosed to my family and friends that I was struggling with this illness for so long. My immediate family didn't really know. ” – Vanessa
Families can exist in many formations and sizes. A family member going through a difficult time may feel more comfortable talking to someone other than their immediate family or partner about it. It's not always a parent, brother or sister that a person feels most able to talk to about their problems; sometimes it's an understanding grandparent, aunt, cousin, or family friend, or school/work friend. The important thing is that they have someone to talk to.
If you notice behaviour changes or feel like something is wrong with your loved one, reaching out first often helps. The way in which you help can vary, depending on your relationship with the person. Knowing how and what to say to someone feeling distress can help them greatly. Even if they deny they have a problem at first, they may agree to seek help in time.
Many Australians experience mental illness in their lifetime. As family members, partners and friends, we can all help to support our loved ones through these times. Sometimes the best thing we can do is listen without judgement, ask what is happening for them, and help them to access professional support.
In supporting a family member, it is important to look after yourself as well. Take a look at our pages on support for carers, as well as connecting with family and how to support someone. We also have tailored resources below to help you get started.
A closer look
Mental illness can affect family members
Seeking support as a family can bring benefits
Three generations under one roof is becoming more common
Various cultures can have differing needs for care and support
Family is not always just biological for everyone