Are you a caregiver for someone with a mental disorder?
Here is information on mental health and mental disorders, tips on how to apply to the Adult Mental Health Access Portal (GASMA) and resources to help you get involved.
Mental health is a continuum from psychological well-being (optimal mental health) to psychological distress. When we talk about “mental health issues” we are referring to symptoms that are the same as those of “mental disorders,” but with a shorter duration and less intensity.
A mental disorder is a diagnosed illness in which the person has symptoms characterized by alterations in thinking, mood or behaviour. The symptoms cause distress or suffering and interfere with the person’s ability to function. Mental disorders also vary along a continuum.
Forms of mental disorders
Lack of energy or restlessness, difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite affecting weight, decreased sexual desire, headaches, back or stomach pain, intense sadness, suicidal thoughts
Loss of interest in work, family and social activities, feelings of failure and low self-esteem, difficulty concentrating and making decisions
Delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, disorganized or catatonic behaviour, impairment in daily functioning
Hoarding of objects, unusual relationship to objects, difficulty decluttering, excessive neglect of personal hygiene, social isolation
Feelings of being overwhelmed by events, distress, anxiety, emotional outbursts or inability to adapt to a new situation, unusual behaviour
Heart palpitations and chest pain, high blood pressure, tremors, feelings of choking, excessive sweating, hot flashes or chills, dizziness, numbness or tingling
Manic phase: excessive self-esteem, delusions of grandeur, reduced need for sleep, tendency to talk more than usual, racing thoughts, easily distracted, hyperactivity, risky behaviour.
Depressive episode (see “Depression” above)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Obsessions with cleanliness, obsessions with symmetry and numbers: counting, or repeating a gesture a specific number of times, constant checking, perfectionism
Heart palpitations, chest pain, excessive sweating, nausea, muscle twitching, numbness, tingling, hot flashes, chills
Sensations of suffocation, tightness or lack of air
Feeling that the situation is not real, fear of losing control, of dying, of “going crazy,” agoraphobia
Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
Exaggerated efforts to avoid abandonment, unstable and intense interpersonal relationships, alternating self-worth and worthlessness, unstable self-image, impulsiveness
Marked reactivity of mood, chronic feelings of emptiness, intense and inappropriate anger. In stressful situations, tendency to feel persecuted or to show symptoms of disturbance
Mood changes, sleep disturbances, changes in appetite, lack of energy and motivation, isolation, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, lack of interest
Perceptual disturbances and hallucinations: hearing voices that no one else hears, seeing things that no one else sees, experiencing unusual physical sensations, disorganized thoughts
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Flashbacks, avoidance and emotional numbness, extreme alertness and hyper-arousal
In children, the symptoms may differ. Here are some guidelines for spotting changes and signs.
If the person you are caring for is experiencing distress and is having difficulty functioning normally at work, at home and socially, it is important to seek professional help. Mental disorders and mental health problems can be treated effectively with psychotherapy and/or medication.
All requests must begin with the Adult Mental Health Access Portal (GASMA) of your CIUSSS:
Recovery is the goal, regardless of age. Recovery can mean cure, adaptation and/or stabilization of symptoms, allowing for a satisfying life.
Recovery also involves fighting the stigma surrounding mental illness and paying attention to the vocabulary used. The socio-economic and environmental conditions in which the person finds themself must also be taken into account in the process of recovery.
For the caregiver, patience is required. As René Cloutier, Executive Director of the Réseau Avant de Craquer, says:
What is unique about mental health is that the illness is not stable and necessarily progressive, compared to other problems. Usually, it varies in duration and intensity. The person who has a mental illness can experience periods of crisis, but also recover. They can continue to function in their family, social and professional life despite the illness. (…) recovery is not necessarily a continuous process, there are ups and downs. That’s where caregivers find themselves: it can be a roller coaster of emotions. Especially at the beginning, because you are facing the unknown. Very often, caregivers are not familiar with the disease, so it’s all new to them. They experience a diverse range of feelings when faced with this new reality.
Gouvernement du Québec. Santé mentale.
Gouvernement du Québec. Troubles mentaux.
L'Appui pour les proches aidants. Proches aidants : que faire lorsqu’on se sent démunis devant la maladie mentale d’un être cher?
Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux. Le Plan d'action interministériel en santé mentale 2022-2026 - S'unir pour un mieux-être collectif. Version synthèse.
Office québécois de la langue française. Le vocabulaire de la santé mentale.
Organisation mondiale de la santé. Santé mentale : renforcer notre action.
Need to talk?
Contact our Caregiver Support Helpline for counselling, information et referrals.
Every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Free of charge.