Look after your mental health and wellbeing as a supporter

Supporting someone with anxiety, depression or suicidal feelings can be consuming and overwhelming. This can increase your risk of developing a mental health condition yourself.

You want to stay strong and reliable for the person you’re supporting, but also for yourself. We can support you to look after your own physical and emotional wellbeing.


Accepting the situation

Supporting a person with anxiety, depression or suicidal feelings can be exhausting and may lead to confronting feelings of resentment, frustration and anger.

You may ask yourself, ‘How am I supposed to feel?’ There is no single or short answer to this – how you feel is how you feel. Accepting that your situation is beyond your control can be difficult, and that's okay.

Try to accept that how you’re feeing is normal and be kind to yourself. Help is available and you are not alone.

Your reactions are normal

Your reactions reflect how you feel. They shouldn’t be questioned or judged by other people who aren’t walking in your shoes. Everyone’s experience is unique, though there are many feelings and experiences that carers have in common.

When the person is first diagnosed

When the person you’re supporting is diagnosed with a mental health condition you may feel relief because:

  • there’s a name for the difficulties you have both been facing
  • there’s a reason for the behaviour
  • help is available.

You may also experience fear and confusion and wonder: 

  • “Where to from here?”
  • “What next?”
  • “Is this only the beginning?”

For most people this is a new experience, so these questions are normal. The mental health professional will be able to give you more information. We also have information about signs, symptoms and treatments at Learn about mental health.

During treatment and healing

Many support people say that once the mental health condition is diagnosed, their feelings of love and protection for the person increase.

Sometimes supporters also feel a sense of helplessness because they can’t control or improve the situation.

Many support people have also described experiencing anticipatory grief. This is a feeling of loss and sadness at what might have been. It can be a fear that someone may never reach their full potential, fulfil hopes and dreams or that the relationship may never return to what it was.

Other common feelings include:

  • fear
  • confusion
  • guilt
  • blame
  • shame
  • uncertainty
  • insecurity
  • grief.

Be kind to yourself

Many support people are hard on themselves. Remember this is not your fault. It’s nobody’s fault.

You may worry that you’re not doing enough or that the person’s mental health problems are your fault. You might think:

  • ‘It’s genetics.’
  • ‘It’s my parenting.’
  • ‘I haven’t been a good friend or partner.’

Try to talk to yourself more positively. Remind yourself you:

  • are doing the best you can
  • don’t need to have all the answers
  • didn’t make the person unwell or cause their mental health condition
  • want what’s best for the person, even on the days when you feel frustrated. 

Look after your mental health

The consuming nature of supporting someone with anxiety, depression or suicidal feelings can increase your risk of developing a mental health condition yourself.

To maintain your own mental health try to hold onto hope, learn to manage your stress and seek support when you need it.

Check you mental health 

Everyone’s mental health journey is different. We all experience ups and downs, so it’s important to do regular check ins.

We have some simple tools to help you assess your mental health. You can choose the one that’s right for you and get the resources and support you may need.

Check you mental health

Learn to manage your stress

Demands on your time and energy can lead to increased stress levels. To minimise your stress, try to:

  • take regular breaks – do something you enjoy like seeing a friend or going for a walk outdoors.
  • set boundaries – what support can you provide and for how long?
  • ask other people to give support as well - many will welcome the opportunity to be useful.
  • reduce the support you provide elsewhere, even if this is temporary. Be prepared to say no to new requests.

Try to avoid making any major life decisions while things are unsettled. 

Flexibility at work

If you’re in paid work, consider speaking with your employer about what’s happening and what may assist at work, such as flexible hours. For more information about negotiating flexibility at work visit Flexible work arrangements – Fair Work Ombudsman.

Hold on to hope

Hope may be drawn from small achievements like when the person you support:

  • attends a doctor’s appointment
  • gets out of bed
  • sees a friend
  • hugs you or gives you a smile.

On the bad days, when hope feels like it’s missing, remember that anxiety and depression are treatable. It’s important to hold on to hope.

Counselling for support people

Some support people have found individual counselling to be helpful because it gives them time to debrief, uninterrupted. They see it as constructive and a safe place to voice all of their worries, fears, grievances and frustrations.

To find a counsellor:

"Everybody's going to have those periods of low mood, the thing to remember is that you will come out of it."

Hear community members talk about what they do to look after their mental health.

Look after your wellbeing

Many support people describe their role as being relentless. The intensity of your support role may vary depending on:

  • whether you live with the person
  • your past experience
  • the severity of the person’s condition
  • access to treatment and other means of support.

It’s easy to overlook your own needs but it’s important to make time for yourself as well. Set boundaries with the person you’re supporting and make time to continue the activities you enjoy.

You could:

  • look for ways to include activities you enjoy within your usual routine
  • remember to look for fun and to laugh
  • stay in the moment – notice the times when you are enjoying things.

Social connections

  • Spend time with people you like to be with.
  • Get involved in activities that you feel are worthwhile and in which you feel valued.
  • Make regular time for your interests and hobbies. Think about joining a group or studying something you have always been interested in.

Sleep, exercise and a healthy diet

  • Establish a good sleep pattern.
  • Eat a balanced and nutritious diet. Include a variety of healthy foods including plenty of vegetables, fruit and cereals, some lean meat, chicken or fish, dairy products and lots of water.
  • Engage in regular exercise. Spend time outdoors, preferably in nature.
  • Reduce consumption of alcohol and other drugs.

Rest and relaxation

  • Make sure relaxation is built into your routine; breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, yoga and Tai Chi can be good ways to do this.
  • Plan something to look forward to, such as a holiday.


  • Work out what is important to you and do things that make you feel good.
  • Develop an understanding of your experiences. You may be able to do this by yourself or by talking with someone else. You may find it helpful to connect with a church, some other spiritual pursuit or participate in creative activities in your community.


Maintain your relationships

Living with and supporting someone with a mental health condition can affect your relationships with others.

The response you get from friends and family members may be surprising or hurtful. This may be because they don’t understand anxiety or depression, what it means, or what you may be going through.

Routines you once had in your home gradually change, often without you recognising it. You might have stopped seeing friends or inviting people over.

Make time to keep seeing friends and family. Consider talking about what’s happening and educating them about what anxiety, depression and suicidal feelings are. We have resources to help you explain what’s going on:

Get support for yourself

So much of your role as a supporter is about supporting the person with the mental health condition. You’ve helped them get professional support, start treatment and stay on track.

Your thoughts, conversations, lifestyle, worries, lack of sleep, frustrations, efforts and energy have mainly been directed towards the person you support.

It’s important to make sure you’ve got the right support as well.

Know when you need support

Recognise when you need more help and seek support. Monitor:

  • what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling
  • whether you’re experiencing more frequent headaches or tightness in your muscles
  • lack of sleep and poor concentration.

Which support is right for you

Think about what you find helpful and what will work for you. Support others have found useful include:

Remember, not every option works for everyone, so you need to choose what is best for you. Find more options to support your own mental health at:

Privacy concerns

Many people prefer to maintain their privacy and keep to themselves when dealing with mental health conditions. It’s important that this doesn’t prevent you seeking support for yourself.

There is only so much you can do for other people if you’re not physically and mentally well yourself.

Financial wellbeing

In some situations, supporters may experience financial difficulty and hardship as a result of:

  • being unable to work full-time
  • ongoing medical expenses
  • helping to meet the financial commitments of the person who is unwell.

For help with your finances consider:

Resources for support people

  • Carer Gateway - provides services such as carer support planning, counselling, peer support, carer directed funding packages and emergency respite.
  • Carers Australia - dedicated to improving the lives of carers through important services like carer counselling, advice, advocacy, education and training.
  • Mental Health Carers Australia - provides specialist mental health support to families, carers and their friends. 

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