Speaking up as an unpaid carer

Big problems - daughter comforts senior motherAs you may or may not already know, this website is dedicated to unpaid carers and raising mental health awareness. An unpaid carer is someone looking after a relative or someone close who has physical or mental health needs. An unpaid carer is not a care worker, carer workers are paid to provide support and can do most tasks out of choice, while unpaid carers do their role almost out of desperation.

This particular blog is about giving unpaid carers some inspiration to get their voices out there. Why is this? Because if carers do not speak up then it is hard for mental health commissioners or health services to work with carer needs.

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Being a carer can be daunting as very few suddenly expect to provide care at a specific time, although most feel that there will come a time when they have to support aging parents, unwell partners or even a friend. When caring for someone with health needs, there can be some relief that the ‘cared for’ has some idea what support they require. This can be be tricky if the ‘cared for’ has mental health needs and due to mental capacity issues refuses care or support.

It is vital carers raise their voices regarding such issues, especially if they live with the ‘cared for’. Many carers just cope from day to day thinking there is no need for support for themselves, but if the carer falls unwell then who will provide support for the ‘cared for’?

Closeup on hands of stressed young housewife

If you are a carer, do not feel worried, frightened or scared to speak up about your caring experiences or caring journey.

So where can carers speak in regards to their caring journey?

There are several places and one of them usually can be at a focus group, especially if its run by a mental health service. The service may want to hear what carers think about a particular service provision, so it is vitally important carers take the time to provide opinions.

Other places could be about a mental health service carers strategy, or a mental health awareness event setting. Carers can also speak up about their caring role at a carers support group, which is vital if a carer needs to let off stream or get something off their chest. Sometimes a carer issue cannot be solved overnight, but most carers do with to be heard or listened to.

Other places where carers can speak is at carer forums, I chair many in south London and look forward to hearing carers ideas and suggestions. Carers need not complain, shout or always play the blame game. The focus is on how we can all work together although I am aware of the frustration with services and feeling that carers are not being listened to or not being taken seriously.


If you are caring for someone with physical or mental health needs, please check out any important health events in your area. You have given so much to your family, friend or the community, it is time to be heard.



Lambeth MH Carers Forum update January 2018

Hello again. Welcome to my blog site raising awareness of unpaid carers caring for those suffering mental illness. The site also covers mental health awareness, psychology and more.

This blog post is a brief update of one of the forums I sometimes chair along with a co-chair. The forum is called the Lambeth Mental Health Carers forum, which has been running successfully for some months. I sometimes do not get the time to update on every forum I chair, so since I am not at work this weekend, I thought to try get some info out to members or those who are interested in the carer forum.


The Lambeth MH carer forum runs once a month and alternates from morning to evenings, which gives carers a chance to attend at different times. We had a good turnout of carers who wish to be engaged, involved and speak up about mental health and carer issues, but importantly we do not always want to complain, but compliment and record experiences.

On the agenda was guest speaker from Lambeth and Southwark Mind – Peer Support group lead on the aims and objectives of the peer support group. Fergus from L&S Mind spoke about the importance of peer support, how it is accessed and answered questions from forum members.

Next we had Nicola Byrne who is the new South London & Maudsley Caldecott Guardian. She spoke about what a Caldecott Guardian is and the importance of the role in mental health trusts around the country. A lot of time was spent on her section since forum members wanted to know more about the role.

Nicola also spoke about the online wellbeing application called “Health Locker”. She briefed us about it’s purpose and importance. One member of the forum even managed to find the application via his mobile. Nicola is interested on carers providing feedback on the online application. I believe more work is being done with the online site, but if you are interested you can then check the site via the link below.


Next up on the agenda was a brief discussion about the South London & Maudsley’s Involvement Register. i spoke about the importance of involvement and how to get involved as a carer at our local Mental health trust. Handouts were provided to the members.

Other things on the agenda were looking at getting feedback from forum members on how the forum was getting along to feedback to Carers Lambeth Hub. We then discussed the minutes from the November forum and received updates from forum members.

BME Mental Health Carer forum update January 2018

Welcome back to the 2nd blog of 2018. This particular blog post is a brief update to one of the carer forums I chair in South London. The forum is the BME Mental Health Carer forum in Lewisham. This forum gives a chance for both carer and patient/service user to engage with service providers on mental health matters.


We were delighted to have the equality lead from South London and Maudsley attend to present on their latest equality report titled “Meeting the public sector equality duty at SLaM (2017 edition)”. Before I explain a bit about the report, we had a guest speaker Chris Robertson from “Dont Tone alone”. Chris was speaking about an exciting new project in conjunction with Carers Lewisham on providing exercise classes for unpaid carers. Chris works with carers and those suffering mental ill health. As a note, it is hard for carers to get time to focus on their physical health, plus exercise is one of the main benefits for well-being.

If you wish to sign up to one of exercise classes, please check the flyer below.

Green Photo Dog Walker Flyer

Healthwatch Lewisham also attended the BME forum to learn more about what SLaM is doing regarding equality, so I was very pleased at healthwatch joining in the discussion. Going back to the report, it was produced by the Equality lead Macius Kurowski.

Macius spoke in great detail on what the aim of the report was for and the importance of data. Macius pointed out several important points regarding African and Caribbean use of mental health services. The data held in the report is a mirror of how services are being used and gives some insight on what is working well and what isn’t.


Some revealing aspects of the data is the use of BME CAMH services, it was discussed how we could raise awareness of BME groups accessing such services. Some members of the group were happy such a report is done, because it gives a birds eye view in the whole of SLaMs services.

Macius warned that the report is not a solution to complex BME problems, but is a mirror of what is happening. A large majority of questions from the forum were on the subject of institualisation, race, equality and experiences of the mental health system.

Macius noted more needs to be done for BME groups to access certain services especially IAPTS (Increasing Access to psychological therapy).


More discussions were held on spirituality, the mis-understanding of BME culture and behaviour, restraint and high rate of BME usage in forensic services.

Personally I was glad Macius returned once again to the forum to speak to those using the services and I hope it has got the ball rolling with both SlaM and members of the forum engaging with each other to improve aspects of mental health.

If you wish to learn more about the report you can download them from


Thanks for stopping by

The importance of community spirit

Welcome back to the first blog post of 2018. It has been a while since I last wrote a post, the last one I made was on the fantastic arts event held over in London borough of Lambeth.


Group of people together holding hands

So it is now 2018 and a beginning of new year, with new opportunities, challenges and awareness projects to raise regarding unpaid carers, mental health events and topics about psychology. Some people wonder why I have created such a blog site and why I cover mental health events and carer forums. I feel these specific issues need a lot of awareness raising. Mental health still struggles to get a decent platform and any help I can contribute to the awareness of unpaid carers and service users should continue.

Mother comforts her teen daughter

Mother comforting Daughter who is unwell

The thing is though, it is not just about service users or carers, its not always about mental health staff who work tirelessly to support service users and their family. It is not even always about psychology or psychiatry. I feel the larger aspect is community. I feel no matter how near or far, we are touched by mental health.

It is unfortunate that those around us only notice mental health when they see mental illness at its chronic form, either when someone is suffering psychosis, bipolar or a serve eating disorder, but we cannot overlook that each and everyone of us have mental health. We all can feel down at times, we can feel stressed and angry, but if we take that to another level then we are not too far from challenging mental health.

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Its not enough to say mental health effects everyone and that we should be proud of combating mental illness, we need to involve the community to learn about mental health and involve the community to understand wellbeing. The divide needs to be closed where those who suffer mental illness are kept hidden away while others who are coping well continue on hoping they will never have to face mental illness.

I hope to raise the importance of the inclusion the community, where the community can get the voice and speak about what is affecting their mental health and how physical health is tied with mental health. It might seem we are different and unique, but no matter what we are exposed to, mental health affects us all.

Matthew Mckenzie

If we can work together as a community and share the common apsect of wellbeing, so many great things can be arheived. People will always remember those who go out of their way to show understanding, education and most importantly kindness.

We should never forget community. Here is to a healthy 2018 for body and mind.

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STELEO Art Exhibition


Welcome, on this blog I talk about the art event that took place over at The Coffee Lovers Cafe’. The art exhibition was a joint work of the patients / service users of the STEP and LEO mental health team.

If you wish to see the video version please click the video below

A bit about The Coffee Lovers Cafe. The Coffee Lovers Cafe is a lovely Moroccan themed cafe situated in Lambeth, the staff are friendly and the prices are very reasonable. If you ever get the chance, it is worth dropping by for the lovely atmosphere.


The art exhibition title ‘STELEO’ was hosted by Arts therapist Paula Moclair who provides art therapy at South London & Maudsley. As I arrived at the Cafe, Paula greeted me and showed me some of the works on display. I was glad to be in from the cold and the warmth of the cafe certainly made a difference. Plus there was lots of refreshments on offer.


It was not long before some of the artists turned up to speak and present some of their work. First to chat about her work was Marian Saidik who produced the work “Hub of Roses”.


Mariam mentioned that the work produced made her happy and felt the work’s aim was to be a gift to others. She started art at a very young age, but has interests in the environment, language and fitness. Mariam explained to me about the use of colours and the importance of expressing the art work.

Paula then spoke to me about her art, each of her art work had a theme and focus. The first work shown was titled “Lurly-Lurley”, which seems to express the use of words and the relation with her sister.


Paula then spoke about three other pieces of work shown here. One showing the toliet and her cat focused on the patron saint of miracles. The other picture shown in blue was to do with Yoga and the last being about the experiences with her sister at a young age.

Soon I spoke to another artist who talked about the flower they made and how they liked flowers, plus the flower represents life



The next service user spoke about the work she produced, which I noticed a visitor spoke kindly about. The visitor felt that the patterns from the work produced called out to him. When I asked the artist to explain more about her work, she mentioned how she enjoyed creating patterns.


More artists arrived and spoke about how Paula helped them produce the work and how they appreciated the help. They felt that art was a positive force in their life and a good hobby. They was not too worried about their art work selling since they could always take it home later.

The artist also showed more of his work off his mobile phone.


Near the end of the art exhibition we got to hear from the art therapist who explained the latest developments from the past year and how it was good to see people’s work framed. One of the artists also spoke about how good it was to see his art on show and how it overwhelmed him.

I also made a speech stating that I was proud to see the end results of all the hard work patients and staff from the LEO and STEP team had put in and I was happy to see the end results of the funding by the Mausley ‘Lets Smile’ charity.

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All in all, the event inviting, inspiring and it felt great to talk to friendly people. I hope more work can be produced for the next exhibition.

Lewisham MH Carers forum November

133Welcome to the November update of the Lewisham Mental Health carers forum for 2017. This will be the last forum for 2017 until January 2018. The carers forum has been running in Lewisham for some years now and there has been some minor problems, but many successes.

For the November forum on the agenda we had feedback from South London & Maudsley regarding carer queries from the October meeting. The patient information officer did a great job in notifying the involvement lead, information manager and engagement lead regarding carer queries.

  • Most queries centered on providing SLaM’s carer Handbook for GPs.
  • The trusts progress on Triangle of Care
  • Compliments regarding the trusts new carers handbook
  • Plus engagement from the Head of the acute pathway to the MH carers forum in Lewisham.

I gave feedback to the attendees to the forum and all who attended were delighted with the effort the trust took to engage with involved carers.

For the November MH carers forum, we had a carers lewisham advocate update the forum members on what Carers Lewisham is doing for carers. There was other updates on

  • Promotion of the MH Carers forum.
  • The upcoming Carers Lewisham AGM.
  • Update on the 4 carer areas.
  • Print out of the latest Carers Lewisham Newsletter.


We also discussed who is attending the carers forum for the new year, which can help with setting the agenda so other carers know what will be discussed.

During the forum Lucy Phiri who is the trust’s new modern Matron for Croydon and modern matron lead for carers dropped by to tell carers about what a modern matron does. Carers who attended were updated on the importance of quality on the wards, looking into CQC actions and engaging with families and carers. We found who are the 4 modern matrons for each of the 4 boroughs.


Queries from carers were on if there is or will be a deputy for carer leads because if a carer lead is unwell or moves on then it is hard to continue a carer focused role, e.g. chain of command breaks down for staff and carer.

Other queries were carers having trouble getting a carers assessment if their ‘cared for’ is not engaging with the services.

Lastly, the good news is that carers were happy to hear that there will be a new carer lead forum/network starting up and the Modern matron will take up some of our queries to the meeting the next day.

Why you care

Mother comforts her teen daughterIf you are a non paid carer of someone suffering from mental illness, there will be times that you question yourself on why you care. Especially during the toughest part of a crisis. It might be that you constantly fear loosing that person through an eating disorder, addiction or psychotic episode. It may be that you are having difficultly getting your point across to mental health professionals especially when the NHS is in its time of crisis.

You may question not only the reason why you care, but question your own well being.

Being a non-paid carer is vital not only for the person being cared for, but for the community. Each community thrives on people want to help each other out, after all isn’t that how communities work? We share all things in common, we all want to get along and wish the best for each other. It is unfortunate that life is not always fair, there will be that special someone struck down with mental illness that non-paid carers would have to fight for.

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Carers would like some assistance especially if they are struggling to make ends meet, it need not always be financial assistance, but recognition and hearing the carer can go a long way to improving engagement with the family.

I have been through the situation many times on if I was making the right decision, especially if I am having to try block my loved one’s decision or advocate for them, which might not always be in their interest. However I know in the long run, it would make big difference. I know in the long run it showed I really cared and that everything would turn out alright. My efforts as of this time did pay off.

Still there are many carers of those suffering from mental illness who still doubt themselves. Non-paid carers can be up against a mountain of red tape, lack of information, misunderstandings, lack of support, failing relationships and mental/physical turmoil themselves. It is true the mentally unwell person is getting the worst of it, but the carer struggle should not be ignored or discounted.

melancholy and sad young  woman  at the window in the rain

There are carers out there who can speak their mind and getting things sorted out quickly, but the majority of carers silently cope and continue on until they reach that breaking point. If you as a non-paid carer question why you are caring for someone close who is unwell, just think this to yourself, you do this because “YOU CARE”