Written by Cath Coleman
Co-Founder, Niche Jobs
There are around 6 million people in the UK that care for or support someone with a physical or mental illness, or disability without being paid. Supporting another person with an illness can be exhausting, regardless of whether the person has a physical illness, mental illness or substance abuse problem. Some people are short term carers, but many care for another person for many years.Carers for people with a mental illness may find themselves doing a range of daily tasks:• Providing emotional support, • Helping with budgeting and shopping, • Helping with medication, • Attending appointments with their psychiatrist and community team,• Checking they are safe, • Cooking and cleaning, • Encouraging them to seek help if their mental state deteriorates.Mental health nurses often spend many hours talking with families, who are carers of a mentally ill patient about how to provide support when they are discharged home, and how to prevent any relapse in the future. The carers are often forgotten about during this time, but it is worth remembering how vital the carer is to the patients’ recovery. Without the support from a carer who the patient knows, trusts and can rely on, many patients can quickly become isolated and unwell, sometimes resulting in readmission.Nurses play an important role in supporting carers. We should provide information about managing their own mental health, reminding them that unless they take care of their own physical and mental health, they will not be able to care for their relative. Many carers find themselves suffering from depression or anxiety, resulting in low self-esteem, isolation and loneliness, experiencing stress, with poor sleep and feelings of resentment. This can become more serious and some carers may eventually need to seek help for their own mental illness.When we see that someone might be struggling as a carer, Mental Health Nurses (RMNs) must support them the best we can. We should offer them time to talk about how they are coping, support them with managing their time and provide them with details of support services available in the community. We can also provide simple solutions to feeling stressed and overwhelmed such as relaxation techniques, sleep hygiene and the importance of looking after physical health through good diet and exercise. Carers can be also offered support through their GP, through carer’s groups, and the Carers’ UK helpline.