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What to do in an emergency?
Call 911 if you or a loved one are in immediate danger. Notify the operator that it is a psychiatric emergency and ask for an officer trained to help people with a mental health condition.
If you are in crisis or just need to talk about suicidal thoughts, call
416 408-4357, the Toronto Distress Line. It is a 24-hour, confidential suicide prevention hotline.
How to plan for an emergency?
If your loved one experiences serious episodes that cause problems, it’s important to plan ahead for these problems. These plans—written during times of wellness—usually map out what will happen and who will be involved, and who to call if and when a loved one starts to feel unwell. You may be included in a plan with your loved one’s care team, but you can make a plan just between you and your loved one, too.
If you believe that a loved one is at risk of harming themselves or others and they will not seek help, you may get a mental health assessment through your province’s or territory’s mental health laws. In general, these laws let a doctor, judge, police officer, or justice of the peace order an evaluation if a person meets certain criteria. While this can be a helpful tool in a crisis situation, it can also be difficult and traumatic for everyone involved. Ideally, a loved one should have a plan in place that seeks action before these emergency measures are necessary. Contact your provincial or territorial ministry or department of health to learn more. Call us if you need help with this.
Who is taking care of you?
When a loved one experiences a mental illness, their care and support can take a lot of time and energy. But your own needs are just as important, too. If you aren’t well, it is even harder to help someone else regain wellness. Here are some tips to think about according to our psychologist Dr. Edna Bloomstein:
1. Accept your own feelings and know that you are not alone . It is natural to feel many different emotions when a loved one is diagnosed with a mental illness. Other people experience the same challenges and complicated mix of emotions, just like you. Let yourself feel whatever you need to feel.
2. Take time to learn more about mental illnesses. This will give you a better understanding of your loved one’s experiences and help you see what they may be going through. You can find reliable information online, through provincial or territorial health services, and through community organizations.
3. Stay connected. Embarrassment, social stigma and fear can stop many family members from seeking help when a loved one is diagnosed with a mental illness. But that can isolate you at a time when you need the most support from others. Talk to trusted friends and family and let them know what you’re experiencing. If you aren’t sure where to go, try connecting with a community organization.
4. Join a support group. Support groups are a good place to share your experiences, learn from others, and connect with people who understand what you’re going through. The Family Caregiver Connection Program is our support group that is specifically designed to support those seniors who are the primary caregivers for their loved one who is dealing with mental health issues. Groups meet once a week on Wednesdays, from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm. and can accommodate 20 to 30 people.
5. Take time for yourself . If you are caring for a loved one, your responsibilities may use up your physical and emotional energy. It’s important to take time for yourself. It can help you recharge and give you a more balanced perspective toward any challenges you experience. Schedule opportunities that allow you to relax, have fun and get away so you can come back to your loved one with a healthier outlook. You can’t care for someone else if you haven’t cared for yourself first.
6. Seek help for yourself. Caring for a loved one who’s unwell can be stressful. Long periods of stress can lead to mental health or substance use problems. Seek help if you find your own well-being slipping, and encourage family members to seek help if they need it. Mental illness can also have a big impact on family relationships. It’s a good idea to seek counseling for the entire family.
7. Develop coping strategies for challenging behaviours.
There may be times when a loved one shows strange or challenging behaviours that can make you feel confused, embarrassed, or scared. This can happen in public or in private. It’s best to talk with your loved one’s care team for strategies to manage challenging situations. Here are some tips:
1) Learn more about your options.
2) Plan the best strategies for the situation.
3) Understand that this is not personal.
4) Realize that some behaviours may be beyond your loved one’s control, they may be as distressing to them as they are to you.
5) It is also important to tell your loved one (and their care team) what behaviours you aren’t willing to tolerate. You have rights too—you never have to tolerate dangerous or abusive behaviour.
When someone you love is diagnosed with a mental illness, you may worry about their financial future. If they are unemployed or do not make enough to support themselves, they may qualify for income supports. Some programs are provincial or territorial, and others are national. Talk with a loved one’s care team, provincial or territorial services, or a local organization to see what’s available. Your bank can also help with tools like a Registered Disability Savings Plan.