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Family and Friends

Sometimes those recovering from mental illness need help from those around them. In this section we will shortly be giving help and guidance for family and friends, and carers.

Are you a Carer?
A carer is anyone who spends time and energy looking after (in an unpaid capacity) a friend, relative, neighbour or spouse who is ill or disabled. This may be a full-time activity or as little as keeping a regular eye on someone. You may not think of yourself as a carer because you undertake your tasks out of love or friendship. Many carers do not recognise themselves as such and therefore do not always seek information or know where to look for further help.

Your own needs as a Carer
It is essential for a carer to be aware of the need to look after their own health and mental well being. Carers are vulnerable to poor health and depression. Regular breaks from caring are advisable. Isolation can be a major problem. It is important for carers to maintain and cultivate connections outside the home.

As part of the Care Programme Approach (CPA), the mental health services are in a position to meet the needs of carers more effectively than in the past. The CPA Care Co-ordinator in the community, or primary nurse on a ward, has the role of identifying carers in each case, and then talking to them to see what they need. You may need information, time booked with a psychiatrist, support through carers’ selfhelp groups, or professional advice, amongst other things.

Under the Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000 you are entitled to an assessment of your own needs as a carer if you are providing regular and substantial care and the person you care for may be eligible for help with their social care needs. (This right exists whether or not the person you care for is on the CPA.)

There were changes recently to the Carers' support service throughout Cambridgeshire, and details are on this leaflet.

Carers’ Assessments
A carer’s assessment is an opportunity to look at how being a carer is affecting you. The assessment may lead to a range of services being provided to you, to help you carry on in your caring role. These might include: information and advice, for example on local mental health services or types of treatment, discussion about helping you have a break (either a regular break during the week or a longer break through the provision of alternative care and support for the person you care for). It might also be possible to request financial assistance through the Carer’s Grant, where a particular item or service could make a difference in helping you to continue to care.

If you are a carer then investigate "The Carers' Assessment" as it may be of benefit to you.

A recent survey by Carers UK has found that carer's are more likely to suffer poor health than the rest of the population and that mental illness is more common when carers cannot get a break from the demands of their role.

Financial worries were blamed as the cause of much distress and a large number of people had to cease work and became financially worse off in order to care, with a significant number of these carers having to cut back on food and struggling to pay essential bills.

The survey pointed to a lack of support and information for carers, particularly where money is concerned. Many of those entitled to benefits are not aware of their right to a carer's assessment, which is one of the main gateways to support. A staggering £660 million in carers' benefits go unclaimed by some 300,000 carers.

The Carers Rights Guide is produced by Carers UK and gives advice on support and benefits. To obtain a copy contact:

Carers UK
20 - 25 Glasshouse Yard
London EC1A 4JT
Tel: 020 8880 8125
Helpline - 0808 808 7777

Carers UK (Hunts Branch)
Maple Centre
6 Oak Drive
Cambs PE29 7HN
Tel: 01480 420615
The Hunts branch offers information, befriending, social events, support groups, newsletters, emergency card

0845 767 8000 (local rate)
Open 6pm - 11pm every day or you can email
Offer support mainly for carers but also service users in crisis situations; can provide information on local services, treatment options, etc.

Young Minds
Parents Information Service 0800 018 2138
Mondays 10am-1pm, Tuesdays 1-4pm, Wednesdays 1-4pm and 6-8pm, Thursdays 1-4pm, Fridays 10am-1pm
Provide information and advice for anyone concerned about a child or young person's mental health

A Guide to Rough Times
This is a guide for young people in Cambridgeshire, their parents, carers, friends and family... how to look after your emotional well-being when times are difficult, and what to do when you may need some extra help...

Other links:
The Princess Royal Trust Peterborough Carers Centre
Resources for carers in Peterborough
Rethink carers section

Disability Information Service Huntingdonshire

© Mental Health Handbook 2008

Updated 6 October 2008



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