Carers identified?

Information booklet for families and other carers

Page last updated: 2010

You have been given this information pack because you live with, or provide support to, someone with a mental illness?

This could mean you:

  • Provide emotional support, sometimes for long periods each day; or
  • Need to encourage the person you care for to take their medication, and watching for side effects; or
  • Provide assistance with bill paying, filling in Medicare claims and other similar tasks; or
  • Need to remind the person you care for when they have appointments and make sure they get to them; or
  • Help the person you care for to understand what the doctor has said and what the treatment will be; or
  • Check to see if there is food in the fridge, and you might make some meals; or
  • Help with household chores such as cleaning, grocery shopping, gardening; or
  • Make regular phone calls to the person you care for to "check in" on them; or
  • Assist the person you care for to be involved in some social activities.
If so, this means you could be described as a 'carer'. Carers of people with a mental illness are entitled to be recognised, respected and provided with information and support.

'Carer' is a term that is used by services and governments to describe people that provide support to someone with a mental illness that needs help. You may be, and will continue to be, primarily the persons wife, husband, partner, son, daughter, sister, brother, parent, other relative, neighbour or friend. It doesn't matter how many hours per week are spent providing support. Carers may live with the person they are caring for, providing assistance with daily needs, or may visit the person weekly or call regularly. Being a carer involves an investment in time, energy and support. Top of page

We know that carers are often 'hidden' looking after a family member or helping a friend or neighbour with day to day tasks and may not see them– selves as a carer. This is particularly true in situations where children may be the carers in the family.

Caring for someone with a mental illness can be a difficult and painful experience. It takes time and can be emotionally draining. Most people have had limited or no previous experience of mental illness and may experience a whole range of feelings. This is often described as 'like being on a roller coaster'.

This can be particularly difficult if the person concerned feels they do not need help, but behaves in ways that causes problems for themselves and possibly for you too.

Some of the reactions commonly experienced by family and friends are:

  • Guilt
  • Stigma
  • Fear
  • Frustration/Anger
  • Hurt
  • Grief Top of page
We understand that it may be difficult for you to identify yourself as a carer, particularly in the early stages of an illness because:
  • You may be overwhelmed by the situation if you have not had any previous experience with mental illness;
  • Mental illness is not always viewed favourably in the community;
  • You see it as a duty or family responsibility and would be uncomfortable about accepting help from other people;
  • You may be uncomfortable about the involvement of government services or the police;
  • You may feel you are a failure if you ask for help;
  • You are so busy just coping that you may not be aware there is help available or how it might make a difference; and
  • You don't believe anyone could help you
You are not alone in feeling these things and it is important you seek information and support for yourself and other family members.

Carers are our partners in the provision of healthcare. We need to work with you to make sure that your family member or friend receives the best care possible.