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Carers and mental health


A carer is a person who is directly involved in the care of a person with a mental illness because of a familial or social relationship with that person. This section is developed for carers who would like more information on how to care for someone with a mental illness. It also includes information on carer support services and forums.

The lived experience


By the sharing of personal experiences and interactive conversations with carers and consumers, GPs have an opportunity to consider ways that could improve the mental healthcare they deliver.

A key requirement of GPMHSC-accredited Mental Health Skills Training (MHST) and Focussed Psychological Strategies Skills Training (FPS ST) is the active collaboration and involvement of carers and consumers when planning, developing and delivery activities. In addition, the GPMHSC encourages further involvement of carers and consumers in all other MH and FPS CPD activities.

A Carer's Perespective

The following piece is written by Toni, parent of a young adult son living with a serious mental illness since his mid-teens:

With so much focus today on a strengths-based approach to mental health recovery, GPs can often fail to fully appreciate the complexity of the emotional journey which families are navigating alongside their loved ones, often silently.
Profound grief and a deep sense of loss can be central to the experience of a parent or other carer observing a loved one struggling to live with serious mental health challenges. Often, this is not acknowledged and at times even dismissed. Around mental health professionals, a carer's distress must often be hidden, otherwise carers fear being labelled and their emotional pain used to discount their standing. There are also many times when a carer's grief has to be put into abeyance while there are a loved one's crises to be dealt with. 
Carer grief is poorly understood by many GPs. It is complicated because the lost person being grieved for is present and worse still, in pain. Carers feel helpless with no power to alleviate their loved ones' suffering. It often has no beginning, no end, with no resolution. There can be deep anguish at often seeing no place for their precious loved ones in the world. They watch them lose the simple enjoyment of life, their reaching of significant milestones, let alone their full potential or a sense of fulfilment or a meaningful life. At the same time, they see their loved ones' loss of control over their own lives.
It is important for GPs to understand that the pain for carers can also be the loss of the life their family had before the disruption caused by mental illness. Carers lose the easy, ordinary lightness of life, and many have their family's privacy disrupted by a well-meaning but intrusive mental health system. GPs need to understand that this can often lead to accumulated layers of negative thoughts for carers, including feeling bitter, frustrated, angry and isolated. For many, fear, hyper vigilance, anxiety and despair are present. Chronic sorrow can enter one's life as the grief a carer experiences never goes away.
For information about carer counselling and other support services for carers contact: