Thanks for visiting my mental health carers blog. Sorry to not have blogged for a while since I have only managed to get myself a horrible cold, although I have now recovered. I thought to blog about networking and if you have gone through my other posts, you would have realised that I attend many events especially mental health and carer events. My emphasis is that carers should try to avoid being isolated, which is one of the most unfortunate things to happen to a carer.
If you do not know already a carer is someone who takes time out to carer for someone perhaps a family, friend or neighbour. Carers most often do not do this out of choice, carers hate to see their loved ones suffer if they feel support is lacking for whoever they are looking after. There are of course many other reasons why people, families and communities feel compelled to care, but I want to save that for another blog.
So then we full well know carers can be isolated, but if you are not sure what I mean. I will try with a few basics. There are many different types of carers, some care on and off for those who have physical problems, while other carers have no choice but to sacrifice a lot of their time to step in and provide that much needed care. If you are caring at home for someone, then you are obviously not working, you are not out their making friends and there are times when you are almost neglecting your own care.
The pain of isolation
Carers can be cut off from the community because of the fear that if they back off from giving that much needed support and care to their loved ones then their loved ones health will deteriorate. Carers can also end up being cut off from families as unfortunately other members of the family do not want the so called burden of being there for a relative, after all they have their own things to attend to. Carers can be cut off from society as we all know to get ahead in society you have to be out there, making a living, making connections, making that journey to fulfil your own ambitions. Plus carers can be cut off from themselves since of course it depends how unwell the person you are trying to care for is.
If a carers loved one is deteriorating then the word sacrifice begins to have some meaning as carers scramble to conserve much needed resources in order to ease the pain and desperation of the cared for. Carers begin to neglect their own health, their own plans, financial plans are pushed back and carers themselves become vulnerable.
So then, we can see the risks of caring and to be honest most are unavoidable depending on support or well thought out plans, but who among here reading this blog suddenly woke up this morning and said to themselves that they are going to be a carer that day? Entering the world of providing care does not work that way. For me, I am a mental health carer and when I look closely at my journey, I could no way predict when a mental health problem was to occur, this can go apply to a vast majority of other carers out there.
So what next?
What are the things that can help us carers lessen the impact of isolation. If you look at the world of the carer movement, the one thing that hurts us carers is that we are not out there in the field making ourselves known. After all the old saying goes “Out of sight, out of mind”. Us carers need to sometimes take that brave step and ask to be counted. Carers are there for their families and friends, if society feels this is a bad thing, then what is the idea of the community? Questions must be asked on why there is family breakdown in the west, is it because there is so much pressure on people that we feel compelled to neglect relatives and friends?
If you remember at the start of this blog post, I mentioned that I often go to carer and mental health events, but I also attend mental health forums, debates, focus groups, conferences and carer network events. This is what this blog post is about. Carers must take these events on board in order to lessen the impact of isolation.
For too long carers are hidden away trying so hard to hold on to whats left of their loved ones once illness has taken hold. For too long minimal support has been provided while carers have to pick up most of the support. It does little good to be hidden away when others in the community carry on living their lives while carers also need that support.
It does not have to be this way!!
Carers can attend carer support groups, usually run by carer organisations ranging from CarersUK to CarersTrust. I have joined a few support groups provided by the mental health trust that provides services to my loved one. At such groups carers can at least tell their story and also learn from other carers. There is a place to let out that awful tension thats been building up inside, because in the world of psychology, keeping things in for too long is very bad.
The Carers Networking Journey
If carer support groups are not your thing, I often have used one to one carer support at my local carer center. Over in the south east of London I have used Carer’s Lewisham services for many years and having the space to reach out for that one to one support had made so much difference.
There are also carer events which carers can attend and these usually fall on carer awareness days. In the UK we have “Carers Week” or carer awareness day. Carers can attend such events usually run by councils or health providers to meet other carers or learn where to get more support.
Other carer events can also fall on days relating to the illness the careree is suffering from, these could be cancer awareness events, types of mental health events or many more. The thing is if your loved one is suffering from something then a carer or supporter is not far behind.
The next step up from carer events would be the conferences. I have attended CarerUK Conferences, Lewisham Mental Health Connection Conferences, Mental Health conferences and even conferences held at universities. At conferences you can learn what is being planned for carer support, you can also learn more about the illnesses you are fighting against. The best thing about conferences is networking. A carer can meet those who are specialised in their field these could be CEO of organisations, health providers or even government ministers.
So OK, you have been attending carer events for sometime, but what next? You have been caring and you still feel not much has changed, but if you wish for change to happen, sometimes us carers have to take that step and get involved. I am a member of the Lewisham Mental Health Connection were we raise awareness and also tackle issues regarding mental health in the borough of Lewisham, I am also involved as a carers representative at my mental health trust and a governor there. I also speak at many events and try to teach mental health professionals about the carers world. I write, blog and seek many ways to raise awareness of carers and mental health. Not all carers can do this and that is understandable, but being involved gives us carers that empowerment so many carers can lack.
You do not even have to get out to get involved as many carers form their own blogs or are active on online forums learning about carer and support. Feel free to check out carersUK online forum.
Carers also have the chance to speak at events and share their powerful story even if a carer feels like people do not understand, care or even wish to know about their story. Make yourself be known and reach out so that way us carers do not remain isolated any longer.
Thanks for reading through my blog post