How mental health caregivers in Sudbury are supporting one another during COVID-19
'The people supporting loved ones also struggle,' says program co-ordinator
Living in close quarters with family during COVID-19 has been tricky for many, but for some, it's meant assisting and encouraging loved ones with mental health challenges under the added pressures of quarantine.
As program co-ordinator at Sudbury's Northern Initiative for Social Action (NISA), Tammy Armstrong has been organizing a monthly peer support session for people caring for loved ones with mental health for about six years.
The aim has been to offer caregivers and supporters a safe space to share their feelings and learn from one another's experiences.
"It's there to support the ones that are in the shadows," Armstrong said, "The people supporting loved ones also struggle."
"The ones who are trying to get them to take the medication, trying to take them to the doctor appointments."
Setting healthy boundaries
While the support sessions aren't new, Armstrong said, she's noticing the conversation among participants is changing.
Some, she said, have shared that they're "definitely struggling" over the course of the pandemic.
"Especially ... when people were quarantined and isolated and now being together in this situation, living with the person being together, with this person 24-hours, seven days a week."
Armstrong said it's made some caregivers realize their loved ones aren't coping as well as they had hoped.
She also noted that more and more, people are recounting experiences involving younger loved ones, in their early twenties, who are grappling with both an addiction and a mental health challenge.
She said it's sparked conversations within the sessions about setting healthy boundaries.
It's your turn. It's your turn to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly.— Tammy Armstrong, Northern Initiative for Social Action
"As the loved ones we are supporting are aging out of our homes, and you know, [participants are wondering] how to — or should you — let them go? And how can you, knowing that they're not well," Armstrong said.
Armstrong said support groups like hers are important to allow caregivers the opportunity to have their voices heard, which ultimately helps them be better caregivers to their loved ones.
"To come to these meetings, it's your turn. It's your turn to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly," she said.
"The stories might be different, the circumstances might be different but somehow we can all relate to the feeling ... because the feelings are all the same," she said.