Posted: 31 January 2019

Young Carers Awareness Day: how caring affects mental health

Every year, Young Carers Awareness Day sees a flurry of activity from schools, charities, and young carers’ services across the country. The focus of this year’s Young Carers Awareness Day is mental health.

The impacts of a caring role on young people

We know that more and more young people have trouble with their well-being. Our Good Childhood report documented alarming rates of self-harm and increasing mental health issues. Children that are caring for a family member are sadly even more likely to experience mental ill health.

Twenty years of working with young carers at the Include Service has taught us a lot about the profound effects that a caring role can have on a young person’s life.

Due to the extra pressures a caring role may place on them, these young people can struggle in school; they can experience difficulties making and keeping friends; they often come from lower-income families and experience the impacts of living with poverty and debt.

It’s no surprise that young carers are also at a greater risk of developing mental health problems. Their caring role can lead to loneliness and feelings of isolation, as well as stress and anxiety.

“It’s not just the caring that affects you…what really gets you is the worry of it all. Having a parent who is ill and seeing them in such a state.” - young carer

 

Many young carers spend their day at school worrying about the person who they care for, and in the evening they worry about falling behind with their schoolwork.

How caring can affect a young person's mental health

There are as many as 800,000 children and teenagers caring for someone in the UK, and around a third of these will be caring for someone with a mental health problem.

We know that living with a parent experiencing mental health difficulties means that it is more likely that the child will also experience mental ill-health, and we know that the social stigma surrounding mental illness (as well as other conditions) can mean that these young carers are less likely to seek help.

This makes it more important than ever to care for our young carers.

What we are doing

Our Include Service works with young carers and professionals. Part of this work is to campaign for better legislation and systemic change to improve mental health support and to promote whole-family working. Small changes can lead to huge improvements in a young carer’s life.

Our Young Carers in Schools (YCiS) programme, run in collaboration with Carers Trust, aims to improve the experiences of young carers at school by offering free tools, resources, and training to teachers and school staff.

Watch the video below telling the story of a young carer whose mum has bipolar, and who is struggling with her own mental health.

By Emma
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