• Most caregivers work outside the home either part- or full-time in addition to their caregiving responsibilities
  • Nearly 70 % of caregivers report they don’t see their doctor regularly because of their responsibilities
  • 27% of caregivers are in the sandwich generation caring for a child as well as their parents
  • 1 out of 4 caregivers of a person with a mental illness reports feeling depressed themselves

The Art of Caregiving

November is National Family Caregivers Month. There are more than 40 million caregivers across the country who support loved ones with disabilities (Family Caregiver Alliance, 2019). It is estimated up to 20% of children world-wide suffer from debilitating mental illness (Mayberry & Heflinger, 2018). Many caregivers help their children and loved ones cope with depression, pervasive developmental disorders, attachment disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse and eating disorders (Ambikile & Outwater, 2012). Family caregivers are often the brokers of mental health treatments for children and adolescents; providing support, finding services and coordinating care. The act of caregiving creates a close relationship between the caregiver and the person receiving care with caregivers focus routinely on their loved ones at the expense of their own health and needs. Research shows that family caregivers reported suffering from poorer health outcomes than non-caregivers (Sreenivasan & Weinberger, 2019). Beyond mental and physical health effects caregivers can experience disruptions to their own well-being including socialization. Social relationships and social support networks play a crucial role in health and well-being. Recent studies have explored the links between social isolation, loneliness and physical and mental health outcomes. (Vasileiou et al., 2017). Life changes including caregiving can induce changes in one’s existing or desired socialization. The restrictions on participation in social activities limits the psychological benefits that accessing social supports provides (Vasileiou et al., 2017). Family caregivers often lack support networks, which can result in a sense of isolation. Due to the demands on their time, caregiving takes time from interactions with colleagues, spouses, children, and friends (American Psychological Association, 2017).

Due to the constant demands caregivers reported high levels of stress, self-blame, isolation, substance abuse as well as depressive symptoms. (Science daily, 2011).  The National Alliance of Caregiving and AARP (2015) reported 22% of caregivers noticed a decline in their health and 40% reported high emotional stress related to caregiving activities. Caregiving is a multi-layered experience and it is important for caregivers to pay attention to their physical, mental, and emotional needs because as the saying goes if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else.

Tips for Caregivers…

  • Explore community resources and connect yourself with them.
  • Attend one or more support groups or educational workshops.
  • Know your limitations.
  • Take care of yourself physically.
  • Take a break every day, even if it’s 10 minutes.
  • Get professional help if you feel overwhelmed or need additional support.
  • Let family and friends help.
  • Get adequate rest.
  • Exercise- a brief brisk walk counts!

How to Support the Caregiver of a child with a Mental Illness

1. Listen

Lending an ear shows them they have a support system.

2. Learn

Learn about the child’s mental health diagnosis so you can help in future situations.

3. Act

Show up and help!
See what your friend or relative needs while they adjust to their new role.

4. Help them practice self-care

Offer to take a 15- minute power walk with your friend each day.


American Psychological Association (2017, October 10). Family caregivers needs are often invisible Retrieved from

Ambikile, J.S. &  Outwater, A. (2012). Challenges of caring for children with mental disorders: experiences and views of caregivers attending the outpatient clinic. Child Adolescent Psychiatry Mental Health, 6 (1), 6-16.

Concordia University. (2011). Bearing through it: How caregivers of mentally ill kin can cope. Science Daily. Retrieved from

Family Caregiver Alliance (2019, November 9). Family caregiver alliance: caregiver education. Retrieved from

How to support the caregiver of a child with a mental illness  (2019, November 10). Retrieved from

Mayberry, L.S., & Heflinger, C.A. (2018). How caregivers make meaning of child mental health problems understanding caregiver strain and help seeking. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Sciences, 94 (2), 105-113.

National alliance for caregiving and AARP (2015). Caregiving in the U.S. Retrieved from

Sreenivasan, S,. & Weinberger, L.E. (2019). Psychological nutrition for caregivers. Psychology Today.   Retrieved from

Tips for caregivers (2015, January/February). Today’s Caregiver. Retrieved from, K., Barnett, J., Barreto, M., Vines, J., Atkinson, M., Lawson, S., & Wilson, M. (2017). Experiences of

Loneliness Associated with Being an Informal Caregiver: A Qualitative Investigation. Frontiers in psychology8, 585.