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Looking After Young Carers’ Mental Health (#youngcarersawarenessday #mentalhealth)

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Hi, and welcome to this week’s blog post!

 

Today I’d like to talk about Mental health in regards to young carers.

 

This is also the focus of this year’s young carers’ awareness day (read more here).


If you are a young carer, do read until the end, or skip to the end for some tips on how you can look after yourself while doing this great job for your loved one!


CarersWeek.Org mentions that the statistics point towards three in five of us becoming unpaid carers at some point in our lives. This could be short term or long term, depending on what the person we look after is struggling with.


I have worked as a paid support worker for the past 11 years, and from personal experience or watching my colleagues, I can say that it has impacted on our physical and mental health.

It is a very rewarding job, which is why I’ve been doing it for so long. But some of the consequences are similar to those of unpaid carers, but unpaid carers have so much more stacked up against them.


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Let me point out the similarities first:


  • Aches and pains – particularly back troubles, but sometimes we might get hurt due to challenging behaviours (bites, being hit, things thrown at us) or moving in a way that leads to sprained ankles and other things. Some of my colleagues have chronic physical ailments that might mean they have to be extra careful when they do their job, and in turn the job will affect how they do things, but as carers we sometimes forget that we are important too.

  • Headaches and/or Stomach problems- due to pressures about getting it right with someone’s mental health, ensuring the people we look after are getting out in the community, getting their medication right all the time, dealing with other professionals, and dealing with the bureaucracies and policies of the agency we work for.

  • Advocacy roles – sometimes we need to step up and speak up for those who can’t or who are not able to “shout the loudest” which is the only way to get the support they need. It takes a village, and sometimes we are that village!

  • Mental health can be affected due to the things mentioned above.

  • Sometimes we will be having our meal on the job and we have to stand up mid-way to get the people we support something, which will lead to indigestion or worse. We need to remember ourselves, but it’s hard when there’s an obvious need in front of us!


OK, so those are some similarities between paid and unpaid carers.

These might be exacerbated by their pre-existing living circumstances and the consequences of becoming an unpaid carer.

Don’t get me wrong, it is rewarding to care for someone, see them smile or be able to achieve something with your help. But the reality is, there is a real impact.


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Let’s add to the list of unpaid carers the following:


 

  • The lack of income from their carer role impacts on their lives and can lead to them living in poverty or at least their quality of life and wellbeing being compromised due to lack of time or ability to earn a full time living.

  • Benefits might be hard to get going due to different reasons, which migh also impact on this. (Note, I’m writing this in regards to unpaid/paid carers in the UK. In other countries, there is no such things as benefits, so the money issues are further emphasised in these places).

  • The fact that they are doing the job without much training, unpaid carers might just fall into the role of carers out of need and proximity to the person in need. They might have a parent or sibling that has a disability or suddenly falls ill, is growing old or develops debilitating mental health issues.

  • Not having training or support in this way might mean they are doing the best they can, but they might not know the best way to look after their loved one, and much less how to look after themselves.


I hope these lists of effects from caring roles – paid or unpaid – gives you a bit more insight into the amount of emotional, physical and psychological energy that goes into caring for those in need of support with their daily lives.


I now leave you with some tips into how to look after yourself and your mental health whilst having unpaid carer responsibilities:


 

  • Get the book today, and get these lovely printables to support your self-care throughout the year! (1)

    Find out what support and training is out there.

  • Find people in your life that will become your support network, whether it means just having a cup of tea to talk over things with a friend, or more professional support like respite or psychological therapies to take the edge off and to help you carry on doing your role well and safely.

    • This network can be just friends and family, or also professionals as in the list above.
  • Self-care planning is very important.

    • Join support groups like the one I run on facebook

    • Get a self-care book (there are many great resources out there!)

    • Get a planner for your self-care activities. These don’t have to take a long time or be expensive.

      • Read my blog posts on these here.

      • You can take ten minutes out of your day to go for a short walk and take in the fresh air, see pretty trees, animals, and other things that you enjoy looking at.

      • Play your favourite music while making lunch or supporting someone with their personal care. You can both enjoy that, I’m sure!

        Book Review Here

      • Remember that you are also important and that you also need looking after and time to do the things that you enjoy.

      • Find a hobby you forgot about and re-start that.

      • Make yourself your favourite drink.

      • Have a bath or go swimming.

      • Read a book.

      • Practice meditation and/or mindfulness.

      • Find other things that work for you that are not already on this list. Self-care is very personal and individual to each of us!


Join in the Events and activities for carers week by clicking here! 


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