Support for young people affected by serious illness

When someone in the whānau has a serious illness there can be a lot of changes for everyone. Some of them can be really challenging and difficult to understand. Here are some simple ways to help you cope if someone you love is seriously ill.

Although it can seem like you don't have any control over what you think or how you feel right now, there are a few simple things you can do to help.

Here are some things to try which can help you cope if someone you love is seriously ill.

Understand it

Learning more about the serious illness your loved one is experiencing can help you feel better able to deal with it. Ask their doctor or hōhipere / hospital team for more information or go online and look up relevant organisations dedicated to their illness. Be sure to only visit the websites of professional organisations who use medical staff to review and create their content. That way, you can trust that what they’re saying is right.

Stretch it out

Exercise is not only good for your physical health, but also your mental health.

Scientists have discovered that exercise makes your brain release feel good chemicals - the same ones used to treat depression.

This means exercise is as good as antidepressants in managing and treating mild depression. If you’re feeling well enough, it’s good to get moving. Try 30 minutes a day of anything that gets your heart pumping, like walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or skating.

Nourish yourself

Good kai / food is good for your mood, especially:

  • Carbs. Glucose from carbs provides your brain with its main source of fuel - without it, we can’t think clearly. Fuel up on complex carbs, like wholegrains, beans and vegetables, as they give you sustained energy.
  • Proteins. Proteins are vital for good mental health as the messengers in the brain are made from proteins that we eat. Find proteins in meat, fish and soya products.
  • Essential fats. Did you know 60% of our brains are made of fat? The fats we eat directly affect our brain’s structure. We can’t make essential fats within our bodies, so we have to get them from kai / food. Stock up on oily fish, seeds and nuts.

Focus on your self-esteem

Self-esteem is how you think about yourself and the opinion you have of yourself. Although it can be down to your own temperament and personality, sometimes life experiences, especially tough ones like serious illness, can have an impact.

Low self-esteem can make you feel bad about yourself, so you get depressed, which makes you feel even worse about yourself, so you get more depressed - it can be difficult to break that cycle.

Tackle low self-esteem to boost your mental wellbeing by:

  • Understanding your negative thoughts. Think about what your negative thoughts are and when you started to feel like this. Once you’ve identified them, gather evidence to challenge them. Write them down so you have a list as evidence when you’re not feeling great.
  • Trying positive thinking exercises. Write down the things you like about yourself: your best feature; things you have achieved; good things you’ve done for others; your unique skills and talents. It’s great to have something to look back on when you’re having a bad day.
  • Looking at your friends and whānau. Think about how the people you surround yourself with make you feel. If you’re spending time with someone who makes you feel rubbish, spend less time with them and more time with people who make you feel good about yourself.