Connecting with other carers at my mental health carers group
Anna Newman looks after her husband, Thomas. Here Anna writes about her caring role and meeting with the Care for the Carers’ Mental Health Carers Group.
My name is Anna, and I am from Lewes, East Sussex.
I have been a carer for my husband, Thomas, for 10 years. Thomas has Schizoaffective Disorder which is a severe mental illness. He suffers from audio and visual hallucinations, as well as depression and delusions. He also has some physical health issues. Thomas has recently been diagnosed with treatment resistant Schizophrenia, meaning that after trying many medications, nothing has worked.
I help my husband with medication, preparing meals, emotional support and arrange to take him to all medical appointments. I also have to prompt him to remember to do certain things, as when he is partially unwell. he can struggle with his memory or lose track of time.
Before the Covid-19 lockdown, I used to go to the monthly Lewes carer’s group; this now takes place online. I also take part in the monthly Mental Health Carers Group which started last year. I find this group particularly helpful as I can relate to the struggles that come with caring for someone that is mentally unwell. It is nice to share stories and stresses with a group of people who completely understand what you are going through.
It is also good to have time set aside for something that benefits my own mental wellbeing and to meet other people in a similar situation.
Even before lockdown, being a mental health carer can be quite isolating at times. People don’t always understand the severity of the illness or why sometimes plans have to be cancelled at the last minute, or the reason a person may behave in a certain way when they are unwell.
We have faced discrimination in the past, and some people are keen to offer unsolicited advice on a subject they know little about. Thomas and I only surround ourselves with friends who are love and support us for who we are. We are very open about Thomas’s diagnosis; education is key to ending the stigma surrounding mental illness.
I have previously attended activities arranged by Care for the Carers. It was nice to socialise with other carers and be spoilt. I have been for a pub meal at the Cock Inn with my Lewes carers group. I have also had afternoon tea at both the Grand in Eastbourne and The Shelly’s in Lewes as well as attended a Tai Chi class.
I would recommend joining a carers group as it is a great way to meet new people, share stories, get support and find out about other services you may not be aware of.
Carer Support Worker, Rachel Lawson, who facilitates the group, says: “The group has been running online since 2020, and has proved to be a fantastic way to bring carers from across the county together.”
“We provide a safe, confidential space for those caring for someone with significant mental health difficulties to be able to talk openly and honestly about the challenges they face and to support members to feel less isolated, lonely or judged.”
“Sharing experiences and focusing on the incredible skills that carers have is an important part of peer support. I have been amazed at the generosity of members in the support and guidance they have offered each other in tackling often very difficult situations.”
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