Advice for Carers
Mental ill-health affects one in four of us at some point in our lives and can cover a range of conditions, from the mild to the severe. Depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, obsessions, phobias, as well as misuse of alcohol and drugs are just a few of the most common mental health problems.
Mental health conditions can leave sufferers confused and isolated, in turn leading to profound feelings of despair and even thoughts of suicide.
The following provides a brief overview of mental illness with a focus on the carer's role. For a more in-depth look at the different aspects of mental health and resources available to you and the person you are looking after – including information about Carer's Allowance and any other benefits you may be entitled to – try the links on this page
Reduce stress levels
Depending on the illness and its seriousness, the help and support provided by carers, friends and family can be of great importance when it comes to successfully treating mental health problems. Just remember there's only so much you can do, so be aware of your limits and the fact that your own life is important too. Bearing this in mind should help to reduce stress levels for you and the person you care for.
Discuss with others
Discussing the situation with someone you trust, e.g. a family member or close friend can be very helpful. Consulting the GP, psychiatrist, the care coordinator or support worker of the person you are caring for can help to clarify the situation, relieve any feelings of anxiety and perhaps even help find a way to help alleviate the problem itself.
In addition, the area of mental health is well-documented and researched and mental health professionals should be able to assist you. GPs, Community Psychiatric Nurses (CPNs) and other professionals who are part of the Community Mental Health Team can look after people with mental health problems in the community.
At times hospital care may also be necessary, and compulsory admission when the patient does not wish to enter hospital voluntarily but is considered to be in need of hospital care can occur under the Mental Health Act 1983 (England) and the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003, ensuring that they receive the help and support they need from mental health services, and that this care is well organised.
The area of confidentiality is an important one for carers and the people with mental health problems they are looking after. Confidentiality issues can be complex and hard to resolve, not to mention frustrating. You may find yourself feeling that your efforts are not appreciated, as even when you try to help, you cannot get access to the facts or discuss the case with any of the professionals involved, leading to a feeling that you're 'damned if you do, damned if you don't'.
Indeed, Carers and Confidentiality was just one of a range of Mental Health Factsheets we produced with the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Partners in Care
Together with the Royal College of Psychiatrists, we have produced a range of useful leaflets specifically for carers which provides easy to read practical information on mental health conditions, questions to ask mental health professionals, confidentiality and much more, these can be found at:
Triangle of Care report
The Princess Royal Trust for Carers (now known as Carers Trust) and the National Mental Health Development Unit has published a guide which emphasises the need for better involvement of carers and families in the care planning and treatment of people with mental ill-health.
The Triangle of Care describes the therapeutic alliance that needs to exist between service user, staff and carer to ensure informed care planning, support recovery and sustain wellbeing of both service user and carer. It was developed to address the clear evidence from carers that they need to be listened to and consulted more closely.
The guide outlines key elements to achieving this as well as examples of good practice.