Third of UK carers with bad mental health have thoughts of self-harm, survey finds
A third of carers with poor mental health have considered suicide or self-harm, data shows.
Figures given to the Liberal Democrats by Carers UK reveal that many of the UK’s millions of carers who look after relatives have bad mental health, with some “at breaking point”.
In a survey of nearly 11,000 unpaid carers, the vast majority said they were stressed or anxious, while half felt depressed and lonely. More than a quarter said they had bad or very bad mental health. Of these, more than a third said that they had thoughts related to self-harm or suicide, while nearly three-quarters of those felt they were at breaking point.
Helen Walker, the chief executive of Carers UK, said: “Unpaid carers make an enormous contribution to society, but far too regularly feel unseen, undervalued and completely forgotten by services that are supposed to be there to support them.
“Not being able to take breaks from caring, being able to prioritise their own health or earn enough money to make ends meet is causing many to hit rock bottom.”
The Liberal Democrats called for a package of measures, worth about £1bn, to better support carers, through more access to respite care and an uprating of carer’s allowance. Carers would receive £10 more a week now and a further increase in line with inflation in March.
The Lib Dem leader, Ed Davey, who cares for his disabled son and also cared for his mother and grandmother, said: “We can make some big changes that actually don’t really cost very much.
“Family carers are holding up the NHS. If you care about the NHS, you have got to care about care.”
If carers are not treated better and growing numbers of families end up unable to continue caring for their loved ones, then the bill to the taxpayer is going to be in the billions, he added.
“I’m fortunate that I have a very supportive family, I’m not isolated like some carers and I’m able to go out to work,” he said. It was much harder when he and his brother were caring for their terminally ill mother when he was a young teenager. . “During that period, I really did feel quite lonely at times and I felt isolated at school, I did feel different. I probably didn’t recognise my mental health being affected, but maybe in retrospect it was. I certainly didn’t feel life was great.”
Davey also called for immediate talks with all parties on social care funding. He said: “We need cross-party talks to solve the social care crisis. We need to get some consensus, because like pensions, social care funding is a massive long-term policy.
“The whole idea behind the NHS is that we look after each other, because we don’t know if it’s going to be you, me or someone else who gets that expensive illness. I think that principle should be applied to social care.”
Source: Anna Bawden Social affairs correspondent , Yahoo Life UK