The people caring for those with severe mental ill health need support too, says Cause
To mark Mental Health Awareness week the Irish News is running a series of articles on the subject. Here one woman explains how support group Cause helped her while she cared for her husband who had mental ill health
GOOD mental health is an asset that helps us to thrive. This is not just the absence of a mental health problem, but having the ability to think, feel and act in a way that allows us to enjoy life and deal with the challenges it presents.
When someone becomes mentally unwell, they do so in the context of a family and friends – they’re still a child, a mother, a husband and their best supporters in recovery are those close to them. As a unique peer led regional charity, Cause knows that caring for someone with mental illness is challenging.
A carer’s story
Out of the blue, on an ordinary working day, Sarah’s husband called her and was very upset and distressed. This marked the beginning of a journey into caring for a loved one with a serious mental illness.
Sarah explained “My husband had a psychotic/mental breakdown and was admitted to a local psychiatric unit.
"I remember looking at the fear in his face, intense sadness, the withdrawn look, and no interest in anything. We were all emotionally and physically drained having meetings with nursing, medical professionals and social workers, trying to support him in any way possible.
"It all seemed unreal. How could this have happened to him? To us?
"In the hospital, I met a carers advocate from Cause, a support group for people caring for someone with a serious mental illness.
"She chatted to us for a while and told me a little about the group and left her card with us. Surely I would not need this group and my husband would only be here for a few days, get medication, and would be on his feet in no time, be back at work... How wrong could I have been.
"That’s what I thought 14 weeks later when he still an inpatient. This was the start of a long battle with mental illness. Our nightmare had begun. Our worlds had fallen apart – my own, my children and grandchildren and the wider family circle.”
Supporting someone with mental health illness can be a challenging experience that pushes you along unexpected avenues.
Many carers feel grief and loss, and emotional pain and stress themselves. They may be financially impacted as they struggle to maintain their jobs and they can be emotionally drained by the pressure of their new caring responsibilities.
Research for Carers UK estimates there are now more than 220,000 carers in Northern Ireland and one in every four carers is a mental health carer
Since 1995 Cause has developed a range of services that meet the complex needs of carers for people with severe mental illness. The unique experienced based approach includes a blend of telephone helpline support, one to one meetings, access to support groups, and training and information provision all designed to help carers support their loved ones, while looking after their own needs.
If you are caring for someone with a severe mental illness and need support please call: Cause Helpline 0845 603 0291
Visit www.cause.org.uk/MHW17 for more information
Anne gives a candid account of her journey as a carer in seeking help for her son.