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Health of carers suffering: report

Nine out of ten carers supporting someone with a mental illness report an impact on their personal health.

Ninety per cent of people caring for loved-ones with a mental illness are suffering health problems themselves, a report says.

A study of 1000 Australian carers by charity Wesley Mission found caring came at a profound cost.

The charity’s Keeping Minds Well: Caring Till It Hurts report found almost 90 per cent of carers looking after a spouse or relative with a mental illness reported a detrimental impact on their own physical or mental health.

Three in four carers surveyed also said their role had negatively affected their relationship with family and friends, while 57 per cent said their employment and finances had suffered.

"They more often than not sacrifice their time, money and even their careers," said Wesley Mission CEO Reverend Keith Garner.

"Their caring comes at a cost, with an overwhelming number declaring that their caring experience as a child has provided a lasting negative into adult life."

Garner said the challenge was now to better support these people and reduce the stigma associated with caring.

"This is a challenge for all mental health providers," Garner said last week. "There are significant numbers of young Australians who are caring for a mother, father or sibling but are reluctant to seek help."

The impact felt by those who started caregiving when they were under 16 was considerably higher than those who were exposed when they were older.

More than 60 per cent of carers had been performing the role for more than six years and almost half had been care giving for more than 10 years, the report said.

"They are also more likely to have experienced stigma because of their association with a relative with a mental health issue," Garner said.

Wesley Mission recommended a more cohesive, proactive approach among health services and schools to better identify young carers and to ensure that their needs are met through referrals to relevant services.

It was also suggested that states and territories investigate whether it should be mandatory for teachers to be provided with an understanding of warning signs for young people who may be in distress from caregiving.

Frontline service providers should be aware of family and carer needs as they treat a person with a mental health issue and facilitate appropriate support and responses, said Garner.

"Wesley Mission asks both state and federal governments to ensure the capacity of intervention and respite services so that all carers have access to visible and culturally appropriate support when it is needed," Garner said.

The report can be downloaded at www.thewesleyreport.org.au


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