Monthly Archives: January 2023

Carer Story number 2 – Digging out of a Hole by Matthew McKenzie

Welcome back to another blog by carer, poet and carer activist Matthew McKenzie. I am working on an audiobook of fiction carer stories. These stories focus on the experience of mental health carers.

When I am talking about mental health carers, I am referring to friends or mainly someone in the family caring for a relative.

The stories are from the audiobook “Providing Carer & Other Short Stories”, the audiobook will contain 20 short stories focusing on the struggles unpaid carers face, young carer challenges, discrimination ethnic carers may face and overall raising that awareness.

I have now released the 2nd short story called “Digging out of a hole“, which can be watched off my YouTube channel below. The story is how a young man struggles to face up to the role of being a mental health carer.

Carers and learning about online resources

Welcome to my online site that focuses on unpaid carers. The site usually focuses on those caring for someone with a mental illness. This particular blog is on access to online learning resources.

The world is changing, since the 2019 pandemic, many more online learning resources e.g. access to help and advice, benefit info, event info and even carer groups have all most online. What if the carer struggles with the computer? what if the carer does not know how to join online groups?

It was a struggle to access online resources before the pandemic, but it still is a challenge. Some good news, Lewisham Carers Hub have received funding to allow carers to learn about computers and accessing online information. Please see the poster below

Providing Care – Carer Audio story by Matthew McKenzie

Welcome to another blog post by carer Matthew Mckenzie who raises awareness of mental health carers as an Author, activist and poet. I have been quite busy working on several books, although for this particular blog I am focusing on how my audiobook is developing. This audiobook is called “Providing Care & other short stories”.

You can actually watch my first carer story at the end of the blog.

The audiobook will contain 20 short stories focusing on the experience and challenges of those caring for someone suffering mental illness. Each story will raise common themes mental health carers face, e.g. the anxiety of suddenly falling into the caring role, dealing with carer or mental health stigma, clashes with confidentiality, discrimination and misunderstandings, Young carers, minority and ethnic carers and more. There will be plenty other themes I will be raising regarding unpaid carers.

The first story providing care focuses on a young woman who suddenly falls into providing care, even if she thinks she is not a carer. I do not go and outright tell readers and listeners what is going on, I want them to discover the themes themselves and let me know what they have found out.

A lot of audio stories will be changed into video stories, depends how much time I have on my plate. I am still busy writing the stories and working on a story about a woman in a same sex partnership, unfortunately LGBTQ partnerships can still be driven into mental illness. A lot of the stories I write are quite dark, but those stories do need to be told.

Let us focus on the story Providing Care.

The story tells of a young women named Shelia caught unaware when her husband Tom begins to act strangely. Shelia becomes concerned, confused and wondering what to do next. She is thrown into a situation she has not been trained for as her world turns upside down.

It is not long before Shelia tries to save what is left of her relationship by doing all that she can, but can this be enough?

The story “Providing Care” highlights the sudden realisation of falling into unpaid care, there is little preparation if any at all. You can actually watch the draft of this the story for free by clicking the link below…..Enjoy!!

Top 10 things unpaid carers struggle with

Welcome back to another carer blog post by Matthew McKenzie carer activist and author in London.

I thought to try promote carer causes and focus on things that I reckon carers struggle with. As usual when I am talking about carers, I am talking about caring for someone in the family or as a friend.

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Whether a person is caring out in the community or visiting the person they care for in hospital, there are challenges people need to take note of.

Here is a list down below

  1. Isolation – Caregivers can often feel cut off from the outside world, especially if caring, hard to understand
  2. Emotionl strain – Taking care of a loved one and being responsible for their health can be very stressful. depression, guilt, sleep loss.
  3. Financial situation – This struggle can cause all sorts of stress, the financial burden felt by caregivers should not be overlooked.
  4. How Caring can impact on opportunities – if your caring, then you are not earning or developing other skill bases. Still caring can develop it’s own skill base.
  5. identification as a carer – people do not always see themselves as a carer, but can lose out on support
  6. Getting access to support – respite, advocacy, emotional support, planning for the future
  7. Strains on Relationships – caring can be a joyful experience, but also stressful, lack of time for friends or family
  8. Being involved in care – confidentiality, jargon in NHS, relationship breakdowns, sometimes being missed in identification. These things can cause the carer to be uninvolved.
  9. Advocating for the cared for – need to deal with GPs, social workers, pharmacists, care agencies, receptionists and so on.
  10. Not being able to Focus on themselves – most of the previous things mentioned focus on the struggles carers face when caring, but too much focus can cause the carer to loose sight of their own well being. It is important to take time out, sleep, talk to a friend. Not easy if caring in crisis.

If you want a more detailed explanation I have also made a video below.

Providing care & other short stories update for January

Welcome back to another blog post by former mental health carer matthew mckenzie. I am also an author, poet, carer activist and faciliator of carer groups. This blog is going to be a bit of an update on how my new audiobook development is getting along.

The audiobook is called “Providing care & other short stories”. This new audiobook is about the experience of care provided by families to someone suffering mental illness. The audiobook will be my first attempt at fiction, although to be fair I have done some fiction before mainly through blog posts.

The short story titles are as follows (titles subject to change)

  1. Providing Care
  2. Digging out of a hole
  3. A family Affair
  4. Never thought it would be me
  5. Angry
  6. Just when I needed you
  7. A story of Hope
  8. Discriminated
  9. View from the other side
  10. Communication
  11. Banding together
  12. Solitude
  13. Its my right
  14. Wellbeing
  15. Empowerment
  16. Former Carer
  17. Trying to make sense of it all
  18. Young carer
  19. If Only
  20. Until the end

Since the short stories are about providing unpaid care, expect some dark subject content in these stories. The stories might be fiction, but I did want to add some realism. Within each of the stories, there are challenging things that happen to the carers or I could say families and friends. These would be not knowning what to do when someone becomes unwell, encounters with professionals who are not carer aware, struggling with their own mental health and being neglected by health and social care.

It is unfortunate that although many carers do get some level of support, the are those out there going through the same challenges as the carers in my stories

The good news is out of 20 stories, I have finished 4 of the stories. I should pat myself on the back, because I started the project over christmas.

The first story is the main story about providing care, but seen through the carer’s eyes.

The second story is dark with some glimmers of hope when a person is trying to pick up the pieces, but not finding any answers. As the picture shows, there is a mistake as I labelled it

The third story as shown in the picture below shows how not all things are equal in caring

The fourth story regards experiences in the hospital

I am just about to start my fifth story, which is probably quite depressing, but it does open up the struggles of carers and misunderstandings concerning mental illness.

Carer poems – Carers Lewisham culture day 2022

Hello visitors and those providing care or caregiving to someone close. Here is another carer awareness blog from Matthew Mckenzie, carer activist, poet and author from Lewisham.

This blog is about Carers Lewisham Hub’s culture day. Carer centres are a vital part of providing support and services for those giving unpaid care. Carers Lewisham fights hard to identify carers, advocate for them and give as much support as possible.

I often visit the carers centre for their forums and support groups. On the 28th of July 2022, since the borough of Lewisham was the borough of culture. Carers Lewisham was hosting their culture day at their carers centre. A list of activities, networking and events was provided for carers who wanted to feel valued.

We had the game room and Raffle ticket event. Massage for those who have stress, aches and pains. Creative art sessions for those wanting to be……well creative. We also had laughter workshop, book readings and also my poetry reading (more on that later.)

I think most of all, carers who came along to the event wanted to network with others. They wanted to reduce isolation and link up with carers, staff and advocate to get support, information and to feel valued.

Since my poetry book “The Poetry book of mental health caring” was released in July 2022. Carers Lewisham was kind enough to offer me a poetry workshop. It is well known that over time, poetry can contribute to forms of culture. Most if not all my poems focus on the aspect of the caring experience. The poems look to raise the awareness of those providing mental health care. That means providing unpaid care to someone suffering mental illness.

At the book reading and poetry workshop, we had other carers reading from their poems which they have developed. Tess read a wonderful poem and also Brenda.

I ran my workshop by reading a poem and then asking others to also choose a poem to read. We then reflected on the meaning and definitions of those poems. You can see the video of my poetry workshop below.

What is a carer – the blurred definition

Hello fellow unpaid carers, new blog from Matthew McKenzie carer activist. I have not blogged in a while, because I am so busy writing my books about unpaid care. The thing is, while I am writing stories about the experience of providing care, I could not help think about the term ‘carer’. I could be more clearer and say what does the word ‘carer’ mean.

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If i Google the term ‘what is a carer‘ The following turns up.

Wikipedia states the following

“A caregiver or carer is a paid or unpaid member of a person’s social network who helps them with activities of daily living.”

NHS England focuses the word ‘carer’ as the following.

‘A carer is anyone, including children and adults who looks after a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their illness, frailty, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction and cannot cope without their support’

Come to think of it, if I google the word carer then most if not all of the following links agree with NHS England’s definition of a carer. The following links (subject to change) are from

Bristol and South Gloucestershire carers centre on “What is a carer”
Caring together – Cambridgeshire on – “who is a carer”
Carers Trust on Caring as an Unpaid Carer
Even the citizens advice site has a section on Carers: help and support

So ok, why am I blogging about the definition of carers? Well as you can see things are not all that simple. Get ready because it gets political, but that is nothing new here.

The word ‘carer’ is shared depending on who uses it and why they are using the word. As far as I know, carer workers use the term carer. I run a carers stall at some hospitals and people often come up to me asking the following.

“Do you have the number of a carer to help with looking after someone?”. I then explain the stall is for unpaid carers.

Others ask

“Do you have a job for working as a carer?”
“How much does it pay to be a carer?”
“Can you be my carer?”

Well, the above highlights there are some concerns, because to be fair paid carers / careworkers do care for people, but they are paid to do so. We also have to notice the word ‘carer’ carries with it a vast amount of prestige. It becomes political if people hijack the word to push out those who are providing unpaid care. There is a tug of war between those who want to be defined as carer. Do not get me wrong, as many in the professional sector are vocal that the word should belong to unpaid carers. Still, another problem I am aware of is that those providing unpaid care do not often recognise themselves as a carer. Some even deem the word as an insult because they are caring for someone as a family member and want to be recognised as that first. This is fine and there should be little arguements of this, except what happens if the person continues to struggle providing unpaid care? They are not recognised by certain health and social care systems as needed support.

With the blurred term of ‘carer’, it means not only the carer suffers, but the person needing the care might also suffer because the strain on the family member becomes challenging. We also now have the word ‘carer’ being used for those who work in the NHS. It is true nurses and doctors ‘care’ for their patients, but even that causes problems because what happens when a health professional has to provide care for someone at home or close to them? How would they be identified? Would the strain of care push them out of the health profession?

It gets worse, even if you someone become aware you are a carer caring for someone in the family, what are your duties? Another google search of “carer duties” or “duties as a carer” brings up the duties of care workers. So someone provding unpaid or informal care will get stuck, because sometimes they have no idea what to do.

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This is all confusing, I do not have the answers and I am sure someone out there does. Come to think of it, The care act 2014 is under scrunity. The House of Lords adult social care committee released a report in December 2022. The report mentioned that the government’s white paper does not go far enough.

There is a risk more unpaid carers and those they provide care for will suffer. It was stated that more support from health and social care professionals is needed to identify unpaid carers. As too many carers lose out on support, even if referred a large number might not be able to access support. I did warn it would get political.

To be honest, my thoughts on solutions would be education, education and campaigning. The big hurdle is getting others to scream that they are carers and that they need support. The cost of living, strain on health services and pandemic have highlighted the need for unpaid carers to get support. If the NHS continues to struggle it can only mean one thing, the community has to pick up the slack. That means carers will have to do more and also understand the health and social care system.

You can read the House of Lords adult social care committee report below from section 123 – What does it feel like to be an unpaid carer today?

December Carer News Updates 2022

Latest carer and mental health news for December by carer activist and author Matthew McKenzie

December 2022 Carer and Mental Health news <- read more news items here

For the December edition on caring and mental health we have

HSJ Awards 2022 Winners – System Led Support for Carers Award – Video speech of Northamptonshire Carers who won the System Led Support for Carers at HSJ Awards 2022

Caring Together Virtual Carers Conference 2022 – Part 4 of Caring Together’s conference which focuses on Young Carers

Peers call for Government action on adult social care amid claims that principles of Care Act 2014 “not realised in practice” – House of Lords select committee has challenged the Government to introduce urgent reforms in adult social care

Experience of care – NHS England – Experience of Care updates from NHS England.

“We just sit in the house and freeze” – fear and friendship at the warm bank – Liverpool Carer’s Centre  – Liverpool Carer’s Centre acting as a warm bank for unpaid carers

Unpaid carers: The mental health crisis – ONS reveals that a third of unpaid carers are experiencing depressive symptoms.

Coming out of hospital checklist – This will be useful for my carer stalls at hospitals. This helpful checklist on what should happen before the person is discharged into someone’s care.

Young Carers and Young Adult Carers Survey 2022  – This survey is for young carers, so please spread the word.

Services must adopt anti-racist and holistic models of care to reduce ethnic inequalities in mental healthcare – The experiences of people from ethnic minority groups with NHS mental healthcare are being seriously undermined by failures.

The Legal Implications of the Debate Over Whether ‘Extreme Racism’ Is a Mental Illness – Interesting and important news story looking into defining racism.

Holiday greetings from Health & Care Professions Council – Happy Holidays from the HCPC.

NHS in London expands mental health crisis services this winter – NHS in London is set to boost mental health support for people in crisis to ease demand and pressure on emergency services this winter