Caring for someone with mental health difficulties can be a very important way of helping them. However, it can be very demanding and carers may need support themselves to keep well.
A carer in this context means someone who provides regular and substantial care to someone with mental health difficulties, but is not a paid care worker. A carer could be a relative, partner, friend or neighbour. They may not necessarily live with the person they care for.
Carers who meet this definition have a right to receive help and support from mental health services. Health and social care services should recognise their role as a carer, listen to them and involve them in providing care for person they care for. Subject to confidentiality agreements, they should also provide the carer with information about the cared for person’s treatment and what the carer can do to help keep them well.
Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust is required to offer carers an ‘assessment of carer’s needs’. This involves meeting with the care co-ordinator or other member of staff and talking about the caring role, the impact this has on the carer’s life and any difficulties that this causes. The process should result in the carer getting additional support to help cope if that is what is needed. For example, the carer may receive emotional support, advice and information on dealing with difficult behaviour, or additional support to allow them to take a break.
This assessment of carers' needs is a key way to get help. Contact the nearest Community Mental Health Team (CMHT):
There is also a wide range of support for carers offered by voluntary sector organisations such as the Sheffield Carers’ Centre, SACHMA, Roshni, SYEDA and the Sheffield Young Carers’ Project (0114 258 4595). These services can be accessed directly and will provide support even if the person being cared for is not in contact with mental health services. They can provide a wide range of support including emotional support, information about carers’ rights, mental health services, mental illness, diagnosis and treatment, support groups, education and training, help to develop coping strategies, funding for respite breaks, social activities and other ways of taking a break from the caring role.
Carers may also be able to use direct payments to pay for services and support to help them in their role as a carer.
The Sheffield Carers Group, together with Pilgrim Projects, have created a number of stories, told by people who use mental health services and those who care for them. These stories are intended to illuminate the experiences of people affected by a range of serious mental health conditions including psychosis, depression, and anxiety, highlighting the needs of those who suffer from such conditions, and of those who care for them. The stories were created in a Patient Voices workshop in July 2009, sponsored by Sheffield City Council, and can be accessed here.
Information to help carers can be found on the following websites:
Overall, although caring for someone with mental health problems can be rewarding, it can also be very draining. For many people, it is best to seek help and make the most of the services set up to support carers.