Having a mentally ill parent can be extremely trying.  Many people with mental illness are unaware of their illness, undiagnosed and therefore untreated.   They are not aware there is a problem.  Many mentally ill people are also unwilling to get the help they need. for various reasons.  Any of these situations can be very trying for those witnessing this situation.  If your parent is mentally ill, then you know this pain all too well.

To help you cope, to start with, learn all you can about your parent’s illness.  If he or she has a psychiatrist or therapist, speak to the doctor.  If your parent’s mental illness is undiagnosed, but you are certain something is wrong, study the symptoms.  For example, if your parent spends days in bed at a time, crying, chances are he or she is depressed.  If your parent exhibits erratic mood swings, he or she may have Bipolar Disorder.  If he or she is extremely self-centered, lacks empathy, and must be the center of attention and will pout if not, chances are your parent has Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

While you are not a mental health professional, there is a lot of information out there, so you should be able to get a good idea of what kind of illness your parent has.  Knowledge is power – understanding as much as you can about your parent’s illness will help you to remember that when he or she says or does hurtful things, it is the mental illness fueling those words or deeds, so it is not personal.  Therefore you will not be hurt as deeply as you were before learning about the illness.

Also, please remember that just because your parent has problems does not mean that you have to tolerate being abused!!  You have every right to protect yourself from abuse, even if your parent is mentally ill!!

Create a good support network for yourself.  Dealing with a mentally ill parent, your self-esteem may take some devastating blows.  Caring, supportive people in your life will help you to keep a healthy perspective on the situation.

Be good to yourself, especially if you are your parent’s caregiver.  Just because you care for your parent does not mean that you suddenly have no dreams, needs, or feelings of your own!  The more you take good care of yourself, the better caregiver you will be.  Get plenty of rest, take breaks when you can to do fun things, and never forget to let other people love you!

If you are unable to be her caregiver, do NOT beat yourself up for this!  Caregiving is an extremely challenging job under the absolute best of circumstances.  Not everyone is able to do this.  And, mental illness is extremely difficult to deal with for any caregiver.

Remember that you are a strong person, and you can handle this.  Following the advice above will help you, but never hesitate to ask for further help as you need it, either in your caregiver duties or emotional support for yourself.


On the road to healing, I personally found my relationship with God to be my greatest help.  He helped me more than I can say. Prayer and meditating on His word, the Bible, helped so much.  Learning who the Bible says I am as a child of God is not only inspiring and comforting, but helpful in the healing process.  If you do not have a personal relationship with God, please read the page Salvation Through Jesus Christ for more information.