Caring for someone with mental health problems

Caring for someone with mental health problems

Caring for someone with mental health problems can be particularly challenging. Because mental health problems are not ‘seen’, and the support can be more emotional than practical, carers often don’t see themselves as carers. But they are, and Action for Carers Surrey can help.

What do we mean by mental health problems?

It’s estimated that 1.5 million people care for someone with mental ill health in the UK. Mental ill health refers to conditions that have a negative effect on the way someone thinks, feels, and acts. This covers a range of problems and conditions, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Bulimia and Anorexia
  • Depression
  • Obsessive Compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Personality disorder
  • Phobias
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Psychosis
  • Schizophrenia

These are very varied conditions, but carers for people with these conditions can share similar challenges.

‘Hidden’ caring

Because mental health problems are not ‘seen’, and the support needed can be more emotional than practical, carers often don’t see themselves as carers. But you might be providing all sorts of help – emotional support, positivity, encouragement, and also quite often practical help too, like help with daily tasks when they find things over-whelming. You are a carer.

Better understanding

It can be very hard to fully understand what someone with a mental health problem is going through. But the more you understand the better you can help, and the better you will feel. There may be times when they upset you a great deal. If you can, taking time away can help. Our support groups can help you by talking to others in a similar position

When they won’t seek help

When the person you care for won’t ask for or accept help, it can be very hard. Charity Mind has helpful guidance on what to do in this situation.

Carer’s Assessment

As a carer you are entitled to a Carer’s Assessment. This should happen even if the person with the mental health problems does not have an assessment themselves.

This should mean support and help for you as a carer, and recognition of your role in your cared for’s life.

Looking after yourself

As with all caring, it’s so important to also look after yourself. Caring for someone with mental health problems can be extremely stressful and emotionally draining. It’s hard, but try and find time for your own health, relaxation and social life.

Support from ACS

We can talk to you about your caring situation and suggest ways to help, let you know about ACS events and support groups, as well as signpost you on to further sources of help, from the local council, NHS and other charities and community groups.

I felt like the service Action For Carers provided was like a safety belt around me and my mental health. I had felt like I was drowning and your help was like a life ring which supported me and gave me a sense of normality, allowing me to keep my senses, and work through things. Now I feel way more stable; you helped me to succeed in my benefits claims – and this has been life changing. With your help, my mental health has improved hugely, and I am much better able to cope.

Parent carer, Surrey

Support groups

We have a number of specialised support groups running regularly, both via Zoom, and face-to-face, including sessions for carers of adults with mental health problems, and for carers of young people with mental health problems. It’s a chance to talk to others who understand, and share tips and advice. They are very relaxed, informal get-togethers, held at our Hubs (regular drop ins for carers at 14 Surrey locations), or online. Find out about our support groups here.

I’ve benefitted by sharing my time with people who understand me, don’t judge and give me lots of support

Carer, Surrey

Online forums

If you can’t get to an Action for Carers group, you may like talk to others or read about others challenges in an on-line forum or community. Carers UK’s forum has many discussions about caring for people with mental health problems. Go to the site and you can search by topic.

Charity Mind also have an on line community, Side by Side.


Action for Carers often run events for carers of people with mental health problems, such as information days or workshops, usually with guest speakers.

We also have general events that may help you, about looking after yourself as a carer, and social activities. Take a look at all our upcoming events here.

For younger carers

Many young adult carers, and carers under 18, are caring for someone with mental health problems, often a parent. We have specific support for both these groups with our Young Adult Carers service and Surrey Young Carers. It can be hard to have someone with mental health problems in the family, but we have information, events and social activities to help you as a young person in this situation.

The evening was brilliant as a stress relief and to spend time out from home.

Young Adult Carer, Surrey

Information and signposting

As well as telling you about the services we have, our Action for Carers team can give you further information from other organisations and signpost you on to other sources of help.

Other sources of support


Catalyst are a Surrey charity helping people affected by stress, anxiety and depression. They also offer services to help drug and alcohol users who want to change their lives, and reduce the harm to themselves and their families. Catalyst support carers too, with a range of activities. They also run ‘Family and Friends’ groups across Surrey, where trained group workers provide carers with advice, coping strategies and support. Visit their website, or call them on 01483 590 150. The website has a section for families and carers.

Carers Trust

The Carers Trust has further information on supporting someone with mental health problems, as well as looking after your own mental health.

They also helped develop the The Triangle of Care approach. This was developed by carers and health care professionals to improve carer engagement in acute inpatient and home treatment services. The guide outlines key elements to achieving this as well as examples of good practice. It recommends better partnership working between service users and their carers, and organisations.


Charity Mind has lots of help and information on its website for carers and family members generally on coping when someone in the family has mental health issues.


Charity Rethink has lots of helpful information on mental health on its website.

Turning Point

Social enterprise, Turning Point provides health and social care services, particular supporting people with drug and alcohol misuse and mental health problems. They have a free Carers Wellbeing Guide, with advice on issues such as practising self-care, letting go of negative emotions including sadness or resentment and taking breaks to have a chance to rest. Useful for anyone caring for a friend or family member whether they are struggling with mental health issues, addiction or any other long term conditions.

Being a parent carer of a young person with a mental health problem

You may find it especially difficult to be the parent of a young person with a mental health problem. Charity Young Minds can help. They work to ensure young people get the best possible mental health support and have the resilience to overcome life’s difficulties. They have support for families too, including a Parents Survival Guide and a confidential helpline for parents, 0808 802 5544.

Time to Change

Time to Change is a campaign working to end mental health discrimination.

More useful reading

Young woman

Read Rhianna's story

Rhianna looks after her mum who has mental health problems. Although she found some aspects of growing up tough, she believes caring can be a positive thing.

adult hands holding each other

Looking after yourself

As with all caring, it’s so important to also look after yourself. Caring for someone with mental health problems can be extremely stressful and emotionally draining.

Man standing inside

Read Hasu's story

Hasu gave up a successful business career to look after his wife when she developed a significant mental illness. He says the most important thing is not to give up.

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