South African Schizophrenia & Bipolar Disorders Alliance

Mental Illness


In this text we have chosen to use the terms “Client” and “Carer”:

A Client is a person who has a mental illness and needs support over and above that available to them from Health Care Establishments and Mental Health Care Practitioners.

A Carer is a person who provides this additional support, and may be a family member, partner, friend, colleague, employer or acquaintance.

Understanding Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder

Schizophrenia and Bipolar mood disorder are severe and enduring mental illnesses requiring ongoing management by Mental Health Care Practitioners.

Symptoms vary and may include hearing voices, mood changes, and disturbances in how the sufferer thinks and feels. Their perceptions may also be altered, resulting in disorganised behaviour, loss of touch with reality, changes in sleep patterns, poor concentration, increased tension and a noticeable change in level of activity.

Approximately 1% – 2% of the world’s population is afflicted by these illnesses; onset is usually diagnosed in people between the ages of 15 and 30; and, although not curable, both conditions are treatable.

Modern medical treatment, opportunities for rehabilitation, and the support of family, friends and employers are resulting in these illnesses becoming less feared than they were in the past.

For more information, we recommend that you visit the following websites:


Care for Carers

Looking after a friend or relative with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder can be demanding, frustrating and exhausting; and Carers often neglect a vital part of the process: themselves. By acknowledging the important role you play; forgiving yourself for the times you feel overwhelmed; and taking care of your own health and well-being, you’ll be far better equipped to handle the illness over the long term. Take a step back. Ask yourself how this disorder affects you emotionally and physically. Start trying to identify those methods that will best help you to cope.

Whatever you choose, always try to incorporate them into a balanced lifestyle:

Exercise, eat well and keep an eye on your stress levels.
Set realistic goals.
Involve your partner, family, friends or colleagues by talking openly to them.
Join a support group such as SABDA.
Make time for yourself and pursue your own interests.
Do something different for someone else.
Always remember you are in partnership with the team of Mental Health Care Practitioners at your local hospital or clinic.

We recommend that you contact the Cape Support Group for a copy of their excellent document titled “Coping Skills for Carers”.