help for carers
Caring for and about someone with mental illness can be very demanding on you in many ways – emotionally, physically and even financially. Learning how to support yourself when caring for someone will not only help them but also help your family members, friends and you.
A carer is someone of any age who must change their lifestyle to care for a family member, partner, friend or neighbour needing long-term support. ‘Caring’ can be emotional support, such as helping someone seek help for their mental health problem, or physical support, such as helping with day-to-day tasks such as cooking, cleaning or personal care. As a carer, you do not necessarily have to live with the person you’re supporting.
Do I get any support as a carer?
Unfortunately, a carer is not usually paid a salary for providing care and support, although there may be financial assistance available. You might be eligible for the Carer’s allowance or the Young Carer grant, depending on your circumstances.
Right to advocacy
If you’re 18 or older and caring for someone while living in Scotland, you have the right to advocacy support. Whether the person you care for is dealing with mental health issues, learning disabilities, or other challenges, you can refer yourself, friends, family, or even professionals like care workers can make a referral on your behalf. Don’t hesitate—this is about ensuring you have the support and voice you need as an unpaid carer. You can read more about advocacy from the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance.
If you are working while being an unpaid carer, you have the right to request flexible working from your employer. If possible, look for employers with Carer Positive Employer status or encourage your current employer to obtain this recognition. For employers, it’s a great first step to support working carers. Being a Carer Positive Employer recognises that there are policies in place that support working carers.
For more information, our Mental Health and Money Advice service can help you with any financial worries impacting your mental health.
“I wanted us to apply for the award because when I’ve been going through a difficult time, I’ve been offered condensed hours and given a lot of peer support. I also know we have access to over-the-phone counselling services if I need them. Knowing that I am supported makes a big difference to how I feel.”
Sheila shares the story of the support offered to unpaid carers working for Change Mental Health. You can read more about her experience here.
What can I do to help my mental health?
It is important that we look after ourselves and our mental health so that we may continue to care for others. Finding things that help you relax is important, and taking time out for yourself is essential to protect your mental health.
Studies have shown that carers often experience poorer physical and mental health because of their caring role and often ignore their physical health, which can lead to further health issues. Find out about activities that might be available to you in your area.
Some activities you can do to ensure your wellbeing include:
- Take some ‘me’ time: Focus your energy on a hobby or activity that brings you joy. Things like reading a book, watching your favourite film or listening to music can boost your mood. It might not seem like a lot, but sometimes even 15 minutes of time just for yourself can reduce the stress and calm your mind.
- Connect with others: Take time out of your day to chat with friends or family and be as open with them as possible.
- Nourish your body: Allow your body to feel good by eating a healthy meal, wearing comfortable clothes or exercising, which can make the brain feel good.
- Write your feelings down: Putting pen to paper can be a stress reliever and help you rationalise and accept your experiences.
How do I communicate with the person I’m caring for?
An essential part of supporting the person is maintaining effective communication with the person you’re caring for. Sometimes communication can be difficult when people are unsure what to say or because the relationship has broken down, which can be distressing for carers. Here are some suggestions for effective communication as a carer:
Who needs to know?
Think about who needs to know, what they need to know, and what the cared-for person wants people to know. Your cared-for person always has a right to confidentiality and so do you.
When sharing information with people, it is important to provide them and yourself with accurate and up-to-date information about the illness, reassurance about the effectiveness of the support being received and guidance in ways of being supportive as a collective.
You will need to consider the wishes and sensitivities of the person who is experiencing the illness. All discussions around the condition should be honest but sensitive.
Practice making eye contact when conversing. You will listen to understand rather than respond, paraphrase and reflect on what has been said. You need to withhold judgment and advice and ask open-ended questions to engage. This will keep the conversation positive and make the person feel heard and valued.
What other support can I get?
You may feel that it is more important for the person in your care to receive care and support and that you do not need support for yourself. Yet over 50 years of experience in supporting carers and recent research proves that people who care for their relatives and friends may feel isolated or have poor mental and physical health themselves. It is important that you seek support for yourself. Here are some types of support available for carers:
Talking with a trained professional about your worries and how you’re feeling can enable you to explore how looking after someone affects you.
Peer support groups
There is good evidence that discussion with those who have had similar experiences can help people to develop effective coping strategies.
Change Mental Health services
We offer Carer Support in Highland, Tayside, Fife, Edinburgh and Dumfries and Galloway. Our Carer Support Workers have expertise and a detailed understanding of the issues that affect carers and people with mental illness through emotional support and one-to-one or peer group support.
“The best thing about Change Mental Health and Carers’ Support is the endless possibilities of support, the connections, the links they can provide you with. This place has been a godsend, it really has. As a carer, you feel alone – you really do. But with Change Mental Health, I don’t feel as alone as I did before.”
Lorna shares her experience with the Carer Support in Tayside. You can read more about her experience here.
Our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that most fits your needs, including our Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies.
Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page.