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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

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar Burble, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

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

  1. My daughter is mental handicap what I mean is she is 25 years old and has ADHD and had seziures but she hasn’t had them along time .and she had a learning disability in school.but she graduated and she gets a disability check but my mom said that she can’t live on her own but she has left her alone to go to church and doctors app. You can’t tell she mental heck she can cook clean and take care of animals and go shopping .

  2. Linnette, I don’t know whether you should move on or not. All I can say about that is that love is often where and when you least expect it.

    If you do decide to move on do it GRADUALLY. You will need to build up other sources of support.

  3. Im 36 years old,bipolar all my life. I grew up with both of my parents in a verbal abusive environment, my father was very inconsidered with my mother cheating on her many times during the marriage. When i was a child i was the refere between my mother n father to prevent to violent scene between them, my father used to be very strict with to the point thst i couldnt have a boyfriend otherwise he would beat me up(“thats the way parents used to raise children in the dominican republic back then.)
    As consecuense of that i grew up very shy and insecure about myself and i was very scared of having a boyfriend so i remained virgen until i was 27 years old, so thats when then i decided to have a normal life, i started experiencing sex and love relationship when i met my husband, who is an excellent partner,he understands very well my bipolar condition and treats like queen but the problem is that i married him for not being alone any more since i never had enough selfconfidence and the same time i was ver afraid about my father , the sad thing is that i just married my husband because i felt so lonely all those yrs since i was a youngester with no love experience at all about sex and love plus being bipolar with more depressive symtons than manic i wasso desparated for the support of a man. Now that i have gained more experience about life in general i realized that i never have loved my husband and he is not the type of man who satifies me in many aspect eventhough he is an excellent humsn being for all the emotional supports i get from him but i wm not happy in my marriage because the passion n the chemistry match between us isnt there. So im scared to leave him and start living by mydelf, im afraid that i would miss his caring/emotional support when my symptons of depression arrives. He cooks, he cleans, he does the laundry. He does everything for me and takes care of me

  4. Im 36 years old,bipolar all my life. I grew up with both of my parents in a verbal abusive environment, my father was very inconsidered with my mother cheating on her many times during the marriage. When i was a child i was the refere between my mother n father to prevent to violent scene between them, my father used to be very strict with to the point thst i couldnt have a boyfriend otherwise he would beat me up(“thats the way parents used to raise children in the dominican republic back then.)
    As consecuense of that i grew up very shy and insecure about myself and i was very scared of having a boyfriend so i remained virgen until i was 27 years old, so thats when then i decided to have a normal life, i started experiencing sex and love relationship when i met my husband, who is an excellent partner,he understands very well my bipolar condition and treats like queen but the problem is that i married him for not being alone any more since i never had enough selfconfidence and the same time i was ver afraid about my father , the sad thing is that i just married my husband because i felt so lonely all those yrs since i was a youngester with no love experience at all about sex and love plus being bipolar with more depressive symtons than manic i wasso desparated for the support of a man. Now that i have gained more experience about life in general i realized that i never have loved my husband and he is not the type of man who satifies me in many aspect eventhough he is an excellent humsn being for all the emotional supports i get from him but i wm not happy in my marriage because the passion n the chemistry match isnt there

  5. I am a 53 year old bipolar woman. I first became ill enough to hospitalize at 28 while I was in graduate school. I was hospitalized twice, but I finished school. I have been a practicing attorney for 23 years now. I live alone, but have lived with partners for long periods of time. I think I prefer living alone because I can take little time outs more easily that way. The only real symptoms I have now are related to uncontrolled verbal anger and yelling. I have alienated a lot of people that way, but I still maintain that most people have a lot of cleaning up of their own sides of the street. I know I should not yell, but they need to get their acts together too. I do not do therapy anymore because it turned into a way for my partner and my mother to abuse me. If they want therapy they need to get their own. I did therapy for 25 years. My last psychologist told me to quit reading self help books and just talk. It did me a lot of good, but I think now that that is over due to his move that I just need time to process for myself. My biggest problems are my other health problems (heart disease and diabetes) and financial. I have not had a full time decent job in two years.

  6. I am the “family member”; the mother of a 35 yr old daughter with Bipolar & Borderline Personality Disorder… and she’s pretty much in denial about her mental illness, even though she is on SSI/Disability, hospitalized 3 times and most recently finished with a residential treatment program. While on medication, she is the daughter I know and she functions fairly well. Without medication, she is incoherent, out of control and “all over the map”! That’s where she’s at right at this moment.

    The difficult part is I live in another state, so I’m not there to support her and get her to appointments, etc. I’m trying to take care of myself, trying to “detach” (next to impossible for a mother). It’s hard to be supportive from a long distance. Once she’s “down the rabbit hole” (as I like to call it), she is out of touch with reality. I don’t know how much good it would do for me to call her local mental health agency to check on her… as she already freaked out when I called a neighbor of hers (I had the number on my cell phone from a previous phone call from that number)to check on her. She’s angry with me… but that tends to happen when she’s psychotic, whether I’ve done anything at all or not!
    I’m supposed to let go, and stop obsessing and worrying about her constantly – I’m not going to live forever (I’m 70). I don’t know what I’m supposed to do… and everyone else says “There’s nothing you can do”. Lord knows I’ve already done everything I can. There’s not enough space here to tell you. By the way, so many of you with Bipolar are so much more high-functioning than my daughter. She does not have your insight.

  7. I am 53 and have lived alone since my early twenties when I came down with a very complicated, life threatening combination of PTSD and OCD.
    I have managed to get better and better over the years with the help of doctors and my Buddhist practice. I survived countless episodes of extremely close calls of nearly loosing my mental faculties and/or my soul completely over the years. I survived only through heroic spiritual efforts and by the ” skin of my teeth”.
    Two years ago I had a breakthrough that I had been beating my head against a wall to have for thirty years. Now most of the pain and all of the utter dispair are gone. I still suffer with symptoms of OCD which would make it difficult to have a partner, but even these symptoms are now mitigating by the day. I was lucky enough to recieve some help with a piece of land ten years ago on which I grow landscape plants for nuseries. I would not have made it without this occupational opportunity. I will never give up hope in having a partner.

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