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Can People with a Mental Illness Live Alone?

This was a question recently asked of me, “can people with a mental illness, like bipolar disorder, live alone?”

The answer to me was obvious – yes! Absolutely. Of course a person, even with a serious mental illness, can live alone.

But then I thought about it for a moment and maybe it’s not that simple. Maybe there are some tools that facilitate living on your own.

Can Everyone Live Alone with a Mental Illness?

This is not to suggest that everyone with a mental illness can live alone. Yes, I believe that most of the people who wish to live on their own can do so, with support. It is a sad fact, however, that not everyone is going to fit into this situation. Some people will need supervised care every day. There is no shame in this. Some of us just need a bit more help than others to live our best lives.

However, most people, with some help, can live on their own if they wish to do so.

What Does It Take to Live on your Own?

It does take work to live on your own, however. For some people this work comes easily but for a person with a mental illness, it might not. You need:

However, just because you’re living alone it doesn’t mean that you have to handle everything alone.

Facilitating Independent Living

There are many things family and friends can do to support a loved one who wishes to live independently. You can:

  • Help manage finances by setting up automatic bill payments and writing post-dated rent cheques
  • Help manage appointments by providing or ensuring transportation to healthcare appointments
  • Pick up prescriptions monthly
  • Check-in frequently; set up scheduled check-in times
  • Be supportive emotionally and recognize struggles, there will likely be setbacks for someone who needs support but that doesn’t mean they can’t still move forward
  • Bring over ready-made meals
  • Help with cleaning or laundry
  • Share the workload with others – each person can provide a little support so no one is left trying to provide it all alone

Anything you can do to facilitate daily living can help ensure the success of anyone living on their own. Keep in mind though, no one is a superhero so don’t expect to provide all the support all on your own. Know when to call in other friends and family and know when to call in the professionals. There are many agencies that can help with transitional housing, partially support living and support services to those living independently.

For anyone looking for help, I recommend contacting any local mental health group as they can better direct you to your local services. Try this mental healthcare finder or a helpline if you’re not sure how to get started.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

Author: Natasha Tracy

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30 thoughts on “Can People with a Mental Illness Live Alone?”

  1. I’m very high-functioning (i.e. I have a part-time job) and I look and act ‘normal’. But I do struggle to manage all the things on your list like i did before the illness. My husband helps out by doing his share and facilitating my independence and growth where he can. He helps monitor my symptoms and gives me a little push now and again. He doesn’t take over the things I’m responsible for, unless I’m acutely ill.

    Even so we tend to get a lot of late fees and so forth and we fork out far too much money for take away food while the shopping goes rotten in the fridge. But we get by.

    The trick for me was to adjust my expectations of myself and accept my illness. At first I tried to continue study for my advanced piano exam (minimum 2 hours practice a day) but I couldn’t even focus for fifteen minutes. The frustration and stress caused by this (why can’t I just do it like I used to?) actually exacerbated my symptoms and made it impossible to do even basic things for myself, like shower daily. So i ‘put it aside’ for a while. I can still enjoy playing, but I can also manage to keep myself and my house clean and tidy and have some energy for my life and relationships.

  2. I don’t think I could live alone. I live with my husband and son and right now I am doing everything with some help from my son because my husband had major surgery and is still recovering. It showed me that I would not be able to live alone. I can’t handle it, my stress and anxiety levels are sky high. I have been to my psychiatrist who changed up some of my meds (hopefully that helps). But as for living alone I need someone with me most of the time. I can’t keep up with chores or take care of my son properly although he is 14 so pretty self sufficient.

    Michele

  3. I live on my own, hold a full-time (very demanding) job, and go to school part-time. I have bi-polar disorder. It’s often challenging to pay all the bills on time and keep everything as clean as it should be. I see my therapist regularly to make sure that I keep on top of everything. It can be done!!

  4. I worked full time with bipolar for many years and
    nearly killed myself with physical exhaustion in
    the mean time, but didn’t know it..I felt great! Mania non stop with brief crashes of severe headache, nausea and vomiting crashes
    spaced throughout..(increased serotonin)

    Then grandious behavior lead to my back injury
    and my job was terminated…talk about a crash!
    Forced to be still nearly killed me. My entire
    life changed…

    I love living alone because it is stressful for
    me with other people in my house that don’t really
    understand me, and so far that is only my mother
    and maybe my sons…not that they even understand,
    but they just accept. My mother is such a blessing
    because she lives in the same town and helps me a lot. Otherwise, I make it okay alone and go down and visit others in my building when I feel like it
    and only for a short while. There are days that I
    can’t bring myself to shower or do anything but then other days I feel okay. My philosophy is to
    just go with the flow…I don’t drive anymore because I was getting lost and had a wreck, but I
    take the bus or mother picks me up and we go shopping when I feel like getting out. We do good
    together as long as we aren’t living together. That
    is way too stressful for me, I would end up in the
    hospital…lol!

    sierra

  5. I’ve lived alone for over 40 years with a depressive illness. I’ve told no one, not even family, about the illness, and my attempts to get the help I have needed from the field of mental health practicioners. I’m retired now with a healthly income, my house is paid for, my car is paid for. In short, my life has progressed just like most people, with the exception of a relationship with a mating heterosexual partner. I suppose you could say that I’ve had a handicap to contend with similar to people with physical disabilities. Never have I ever asked anyone to take care of me, like feeding me, housing me, paying for anything I needed.

    I don’t know about other people, and how difficult it is for them to cope with a mental illness. I’ve suffered greatly at times, but my resolve to proceed with life has never waivered.

  6. I have been living alone most of my life. I can do everything just fine for long period of time sometimes for ten years but when I am under emotional stress I have manic period that is not funny and when I recover from it I get very depressed. My moods otherwise is just fine. I don’t take any medications because of the side effects. I use herbal remedy for depression it works very good. I am planning to get phytoplankton it may be what I need not to get manic. I think I was born that way.

  7. It’s wonderful you have been able to continue to function David and make it on your own to retirement…a great accomplishment for someone
    with a mental illness. My poor doctor at the time
    knows how I tried for that…going from one job
    to the next, to the next, to the next…until one
    day he said to me “sweetheart, it’s not the job,
    it’s you.” At that point I had to face it and thus
    began the process of letting go and accepting the
    benefits I had almost killed myself for years to
    earn. It wasn’t easy. It went against all of my faith, and my knowing that I could rise above and do anything I set my mind to. I wanted to be in
    control and beat this illness, not give in to it.
    No peace about it came until I accepted it for what
    it is, a true illness not to be used as an excuse,
    but that provides validation for the way I live and
    the choices I make.

    sierra

  8. I live alone and work full-time. I do struggle a lot with keeping up with housework, etc. I am so moody, and still struggle with depressions (along with being an introvert), that I don’t think sharing an apartment or house would be a great option for me. Automatic bill paying and direct deposit save me from late payments on bills!
    Emily

  9. My son who is 25 I am sure is bi-polar. He is very abusive to live with and I am not always going to be here for him. He needs to know how to cope on his own although I know he does not want to be alone as he thinks about all that’s wrong in his life when alone. He has never worked due to social anxiety disorder and is on Ontario Disability Support so paying bills and having a car, etc. would be difficult financially. He buys things a lot to try and keep himself happy. He will not talk to anyone (doctors, social workers) about his condition and thinks that we (his family) bring it out in him on purpose. He thinks we’re all out to ‘get him’ : (
    Not sure what to do about the situation but it’s so abusive that we are having trouble living with him and it’s getting worse all the time. Idea’s would be helpful, thanks.

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