In the UK, around 1 in 8 adults are carers, with 1.3 million people estimated to be providing care for 50+ hours per week. It is also estimated that 700,000 to 1 million under 18s are young carers.
According to the charity Carers UK, carers providing high levels of care are more likely to suffer poor mental health due to their caring (72%) and feel lonely or socially isolated (8 in 10 people).
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly affected the lives of every single one of us. Yet I cannot help but reflect on the mental health of the millions of unpaid caregivers who have lost some of their current support networks or services, are unable to go to school or work (something which may provide some respite or a space of ‘normality’ for a short while), whilst potentially having to change their routines and/or support their loved one advised by the government to be ‘shielded’ or self-isolate during the pandemic.
As someone who has worked alongside carers and was a young carer themselves, my heart goes out to the young people who are stuck indoors, in what may be a very tense time in the home. For me, school was one of my escapisms and a chance to feel some ‘normality’. Having social services offer respite for my family was also a lifeline and I know that’s not always as possible at the moment. The idea of having that taken away would be incredibly tough right now. Whilst you can care deeply for the person you care for, the importance of having some time for YOU is so important. The lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions may be taking away some of these coping strategies, and my heart goes out to you.
That’s why, this Mental Health Awareness Week, I want everyone to consider any carers in their life who might need a bit of extra support. Show them some kindness by dropping them a text or call to see if you can help in any way (e.g., dropping off the groceries on their doorstep or picking up medication for them), and to see how they are doing. It can make the world of difference.
Additionally, if you have 35 minutes to spare, it would be wonderful if you could consider informing research about resilience and stress in unpaid carers during the current pandemic in a study I’ve been running as a volunteer outside of my 9-5 job. If you know of anyone who might be interested or if you yourself would like to take part, please do share my contact details. Caregivers and non-caregivers can take part, there’s no financial benefit for me, and I’m helping out as it’s a cause close to my heart, so any support is much appreciated.
To all of the carers out there, you’re amazing. Things might be really tough right now, or perhaps you’re doing better than expected; however you feel, that’s ok. You’re not alone, there are so many other carers going through this right now and chances are, you’re not the only one feeling this way.