Approximately 30% of people who care for someone with a mental illness experience high to very high levels of psychological distress, while over 40% feel weary and lack energy much of the time due to their caring role. It’s probably not surprising therefore, that carers experience significantly higher rates of depression and physical health problems than non-carers.
These statistics make sense. When someone is diagnosed with a mental illness it has a ripple effect on family and friends. This is particularly the case for those of us who step into the ‘carer’ role and provide vital support to their loved one who is experiencing mental illness. For many of us, we need to juggle the impact on work, finances, family, and our other relationships while dealing directly with the impact of the mental illness. It’s stressful watching someone we love struggle, and this stress is often compounded by the additional workload that caring creates.
Many of us become so used to looking after our loved ones, we put our own needs on hold – and while this is understandable, it can take a toll on our own physical and mental health. While caring for a loved one can be extremely rewarding, it is also a long-term challenge and when this stress goes unchecked it can take a significant toll on your own health, relationships and mental health. When this happens, both you and the person you care, for can suffer.
It is essential, therefore, that you maintain a focus on your own physical and mental health needs. Different strategies work for different people however, so the trick is to try a range of different strategies and identify those that work for you. Then it is a matter of using them consistently, and being open to the idea that as times change and your circumstances change, you might need to try new strategies. The tip sheets contained here provide lots of advice and helpful strategies. We encourage you to read them and identify some strategies that sound as though they might work for you.
Importantly, using POD regularly is also important. It is easy to become so used to the impact of stress and a gradual worsening mood, that depression, anxiety or harmful levels of stress become the ‘new normal’. When this happens, we tend to miss the signs that we need help and fail to take the steps that can help us feel better. Regularly using the POD will provide you with an objective measure about how you are going and give you timely feedback about how your wellbeing strategies are working.
Remember – investing in your own health and wellbeing is an essential part of being an effective carer!