Explains how to cope when supporting someone else, giving practical suggestions for what you can do and where you can go for support.
Supporting someone else is sometimes called caring. You are a carer if you provide (unpaid) support and care for someone who has an illness, disability, mental health problem or addiction. People often assume that carers tend to be women but research shows that around four in ten carers are men.
Being someone's carer probably only describes part of your relationship with them. You may also be a parent, partner, sister, brother, child, friend or other family member. This relationship can be just as (or more) important to you. You may also have other caring roles as well, for example as a parent to other children.
Supporting others can be mentally and physically exhausting. The time you spend caring can really vary too – some people look after someone for just a short time and others find themselves caring for someone for the long term.
Note: throughout this resource we've used the words 'they' and 'them' to refer to the person you are supporting.
Caring can mean a range of things. Being patient and giving can feel like part of the normal give and take of any relationship, but sometimes you might find yourself spending a lot more time and effort helping someone else.
You may provide a range of support including:
Sometimes they may not accept they need care or support from you. This can make things extra hard. Have a look at our info on what to do when they won't get help or they push you away and say things that upset you.
"I was completely unaware that what I was doing was a carer role and the effect it was having on me. I didn't think about reaching out for support myself."
If you look after someone with a mental health problem you might be unsure about whether what you do 'counts' as caring or whether it's just part of day-to-day life. A lot of people associate caring with physical tasks but giving emotional support can also be a big part of caring. Have a look at our page on supporting someone with a mental health problem for more information.
This information was published in March 2017. We will revise it in 2020.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.