This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and we sat down with Grace our mental health caseworker and casework co-ordinator here at the Centre to talk about her role working with carers.

Have you always worked in mental health?

Before working at the Carers Centre, I spent several years working in a youth psychiatric unit, and then in an addiction centre, both in the Canada.  I also worked in a housing unit for people with physical and learning disabilities.  I am particularly interested in working in mental health and substance misuse and have found that having direct experience of working with service users has really helped me support carers.

You work with carers who are looking after people with a range of mental health and substance misuse issues, are their any common themes or experiences carers have?

The most common issue I think is stress and anxiety because of how unpredictable the person they care for is.  It’s a lot to cope with; not knowing what might happen next or what support them might need to offer.

What do you do to help those carers?

We do a few things; we help carers with stress management techniques and advice and we also refer them for free counselling at the Centre if needed.  A big element of the support we give to mental health and substance misuse carers is around boundary setting.  We help carers identify their own boundaries, then give them support to set them and maintain them.  We also help them develop coping techniques for any behaviours that they find very hard to cope with.

Something a lot of carers find very beneficial is training on the mental health condition, we refer carers to the Recovery Academy which is run by Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.  They provide free courses run by mental health professionals and people with mental health or substance misuse problems, which give carers information on the illnesses as well as pathways to recovery.  As well as this we often point carers in the direction of more information on specific illnesses; when carers know more about the diseases they often feel better prepared and able to cope.

What is the best part of your job?

A huge part of my job is simply offering carers emotional support and a listening ear. It’s very rewarding to be able to make such a difference to someone’s life simply by being there for them and listening to them.  We find that mental health carers can sometimes need less practical help and support like referrals for equipment but more 1:1 emotional support, helping them to identify ways to look after themselves.  I recently worked with someone who was caring for their partner who suffers from severe depression.  Afterwards she wrote to tell me how much she appreciated me being there to listen to her, and knowing that she could always call.  It means a lot to be able to just be there for someone.

1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health problem over their life, we currently support over 800 carers in Trafford who are looking after someone with a mental health or substance misuse problem.

Our carers Helpline is open from 9.00am – 8.00pm Monday to Thursday and 9.00am – 4.30pm on Friday.  If you would like to speak to us about your caring situation and how we can help, call us on 0161 848 2400.

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