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What it's like caring for someone with a mental illness in lockdown

Thu, 11 - June - 2020

Carers' Week - Make Caring Visible

Almost 50 years ago, MindWise was founded by carers of people living with schizophrenia. Today, we continue to provide advocacy, advice and peer support for carers and families through our Carers and Family Support Service. 

Did you know that 1 in 8 people in Northern Ireland are carers? That's 214,000 people. And since the Coronavirus crisis, there has been an extra 98,000 people who have become carers. 

A recent survey by the Coalition of Carers (CoC) has found that:

  • 78% are providing more care during COVID-19
  • 87% are worried about their loved one getting ill
  • 77% are spending more money (highest expenditure on food)
  • 64% are feeling overwhelmed and worried that they are going to burn out in the coming weeks.

Debbie and Caroline, who attend our Carer and Family Support Service, share their stories of caring during lockdown.

Debbie's story

"With Covid, being a carer and also working, it has been a lot to juggle being the cleaner, the cook, the counselor, the worker; I’ve been a jack of all trades throughout".

In a normal situation there would be more help for my mother who is high risk, but nobody wanted to increase the risk to my elderly mother.

With most people working from home, it has been hard to get the right support for my mum and help her through this, but it has been a learning curve for everyone.  Nobody has ever experienced this before, so everyone’s learning as we go.

I’ve had some great help with calls each week from a member of staff to check in how we are and if we need help with anything, which has been a great help for me and my mother. Like most people, my mother is feeling drained at not being able to go about daily life normally, but we’ve had to adapt and just have to get on with it the best we can as there was no way of planning for it, and hopefully get back to some sort of normality soon".

Caroline's story

I am the sole carer for my brother who has severe depression and anxiety. I was informed in the middle of March that his day service would be closing due to Covid-19 and were unsure when they would reopen. I have teenage children and their schools had also closed so everyone has been at home since then.

It has been very difficult managing as my brother spends most of his time in his room and does not engage well with other people. I seem to have been cooking constantly for the whole family, whereas normally my brother would get lunch in the day centre and the kids theirs at school. I rarely get any free time now and spend mornings trying to home school my kids.

In the first weeks, it was really difficult getting medication and prescriptions for my brother and on one occasion he ran out of antidepressants which was very scary. His GP was able to get an emergency supply which we appreciated. I have a close friend who would have come around to talk and support me but I can only call her on her mobile now.

My brother is now very anxious about going out again and is spending more and more time in his room. I am afraid that when things go back to normal that he will be unable to leave the house and go back to his day centre.  

Three ways you can support carers in Northern Ireland

  1. Support Carers Week's mission in Making Caring Visible by adding your pledge
  2. Find out more about what support is available for carers of people with mental illness on the CAUSE website and share your knowledge
  3. Donate to MindWise and help us to reach more carers and families of people affected by severe mental illness

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