Dear Mental health professionals
As a carer of someone with a mental illness I am often the person who gets to see a lot of what happens from both points of view, I see yours and I see that of the person I care for but my voice is often lost or I feel not listened to. I understand that you are often over stretched, underpaid, tired, carrying your own problems, have pressures and constraints from higher up and while I find it really sad and I wish it was changed none of it even crosses my mind at 4 o’clock in the morning when I have four sleeping children and my partner, who I care for in complete crisis and lack of services outside ‘normal hours’ means I somehow have to make it to 9 o’clock to seek any help.
You see for me, I don’t get any let up, I cannot go home at the end of my day or shift and sit down and relax, fall asleep knowing that I don’t have to think about any of it until the next day because I have to live with it, even when Chris is in hospital, the problems don’t just vanish because this is my life. I often feel, sadly by some of you that you take me for granted, that I am the first person you will blame when Chris isn’t well, be it because I didn’t lock up his medication, I fell asleep and he left the house or any other number of other factors. Yet I am the last person a lot of you listen to or even think to speak with, I sometimes feel forgotten until you next need someone to shoulder the blame or responsibility. I just want you to work with me, I am there to help you because I love the person I care for very much, I have eight years worth of understanding, please don’t talk to me like I don’t know him at all. While I don’t hold the qualifications you do, while I am not even considered to be employed and I often tackle the daily stigma around all of this, I know more about him than you likely ever will, because it is me who has been his constant for so long.
Despite all this there have been a few of you who have been nothing but supportive, understanding and have done anything you can to make things feel a little easier, I just feel so sad that the number is so small. For me it isn’t about doing things that are huge, it is such small things that can make such a difference to people like me, a ‘how are you?’ or a ‘thank you’ is often all it takes to make us feel valued too. A couple of weeks ago a social worker took the time to thank me for all I had done leading up to the person I care for being detained under the mental health act. I was already finding that occasion extremely difficult and it helped to hear someone had recognised the part I had played in all this. Perhaps more of you can voice your thanks to family/friends/carers like me?
I want to thank all of you for the work you do, the time you take and the stress you all endure to help those with mental illness and distress. I hope you remember to look after your own mental wellbeing and to continue fighting the stigma that has always surrounded mental illness. I couldn’t look after the person I care for without your help, and without your help it is likely he wouldn’t be alive now, he would have left four children without a father and a piece of my heart would be forever missing so for that I am ever grateful to you.
Sarah, full time mental health carer and mum of four.