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Communicating mental health

Young adult carers are pretty fluent at talking about mental health. They refer to it in many ways when they talk about managing the different aspects of their life and supporting the person they care for. The language that they use is rich in emotions, concern and words such as stress, anxiety, depression, relief, isolation and connection. In discussions about campaigning and changing the support available for them and their families, my impression has been that the concept of mental health is a really important part of how they explain what needs to change.

Young adult carers’ confidence with the language of mental health really strikes me in lots of discussion and campaigning activities but it shouldn’t be so remarkable. Each one of us has our own mental health that goes up and down, that requires us to look after ourselves and to look out for the people around us. That’s stating the obvious but it’s not something everyone talks about or gets help for. It is recognised that people’s expressions of needing help for their mental health gets shut down, diminished or belittled. Many people that talk about their mental health encounter discrimination, ignorance or harmful attitudes.

There is evidence that young carers and young adult carers experience worse mental health than their peers. Data from the GP Patient Survey shows that a third more young adult carers report anxiety or depression than young people without caring responsibilities. A survey of 300 young adult carers found that 45% reported mental health problems including eating disorders, anxiety, bipolar disorder and depression. Young adult carers’ experiences vary hugely but the recommendation that consistently tops the list is sufficient support for the person they care for. Another important one is more thoughtful engagement with them by health and social care professionals so that their role is recognised and they get a chance to talk about their own health. At a national level the plans for new research into the mental health needs of young people are a fantastic opportunity to check how many of those young people are carers and what services are reaching them. Young adult carers are a group that need to be get more support. When actions are taken to improve the availability, effectiveness and range of services for young people’s mental health they need to be thought about and heard from. The recent Carers Trust Transform Our Mental Health campaign sent that message to Clinical Commissioning Groups leading on new plans for their local area to improve mental health services. In the next few months we’ll be looking into how each local area has responded to the people that campaigned for young adult carers’ mental health needs to be recognised within those plans.

The government has announced that vitally needed extra resources are going to support young people’s mental health, including altering the grouping of services that cut people off from the support they need until things get even harder. The Health Minister, Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP, recently spoke about more campaigning to challenge stigma faced by young people with mental health problems. Increased awareness of mental health amongst young people and starting new conversation is a positive step. In the case of young adult carers, they are showing how passionately young people can speak about the mental health. They recognise mental health needs in themselves and in those around them. That leads to strong views on how important it is to access the right mental health support without delay and to have their needs recognised. With all that fantastic insight from people who personally understand what needs to change it is time for policy-makers to listen to young adult carers.


Chloe Alexander is Policy and Campaigns Officer (Young Carers and Young Adult Carers)


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October 29, 2015 - Posted by | Mental Health, Young adult carers, Young carers

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