Who Cares for the Carers: Improving the Wellbeing of Mental Health Carers

This report examines the experiences of mental health carers in the Illawarra region NSW. A sample of carers, who were registered clients of One Door Mental Health between January 2018 and June 2020, were asked a series of questions and the results analysed. The research presented in this report is not intended to provide a comprehensive analysis of issues related to mental illness, but rather has a deliberately narrow focus on the experiences of the carers.

We report on interviews conducted to improve the wellbeing of mental health carers. Our aims were to investigate the main issues affecting mental health carers, to evaluate the outcomes of current programs organised by One Door Mental Health (ARAFMI Illawarra), and to provide recommendations to improve the wellbeing of carers. Our interviewees are ‘hidden workers’, a cohort that is under-appreciated by society. Some of our key findings were that many of our carers felt isolated, had limited support, faced financial burdens, and lacked an understanding of mental illness. More than half of them developed mental health disorder themselves. Our analysis shows that current services improve mental health carers’ social life and mental health. Education programs can also empower them to have more control over their lives and equip them to manage crises. We propose a number of measures to help improve the wellbeing of carers.