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Unpacking carers mental health

Community Manager


Caring for someone with complex mental health issues comes with a unique set of challenges. Some days, carers or family and friends of people with complex mental health issues find themselves frustrated and exhausted, whilst others are filled with connection, compassion and laughter. As mental health issues are not always visible, it’s no secret that carers quite often miss the fact that they’re in a caring role at all. Other health challenges, such as injury, illness or disease, can be more obvious but as a carer, it’s very easy to miss the fact that we are actually in a support role.




It’s important when reflecting on carers support, we take a moment each day to reflect and have a laugh. The true journey of a carer has nothing to do with poorly crafted memes using Drake (although these definitely don’t hurt). The role of a carers is unique and, at times, multifaceted. For the average Australian carer there are many factors to consider when looking after someone- doctor’s appointments, medication, meal prep and so on. For a carer who supports someone with complex mental health issues, the intricacies we deal with every day can require that little bit of extra support from the wider community.

In saying this, many carers hesitate to seek support from friends and loved ones about their caring duties, as there can still be considerable misunderstanding in the broader community around mental health. There is not enough emphasis on support for carer’s mental health. One of the reasons it’s so important to break down stigma around people living with complex mental health issues is because stigma and discrimination can really affect our loved ones, and heavily resonate with us, as carers.

Regardless of stigma, it’s paramount that those caring for someone with complex mental health know that they are not alone, there is support available, and entry points to avenues of care and understanding exist and are accessible.

Mental health carers have the ability to measure and understand their loved one’s mental health, as well as their own. Many carers have shared via both the SANE Forums and SANE Helpline the commonality of prioritising self care strategies. If your mental health feels adverse or in need of some TLC, it’s imperative that, as carers, we are implementing some of those plans to ensure our own emotional wellbeing does not diminish.

Here are three vital notions to consider if you’re navigating life as a carer:

  1. Engage in support. A trusted friend or loved one is usually best. Let them know how challenging caring for someone can sometimes be and be open to the idea of strategizing alongside someone with an objective opinion. If you feel concerned about judgement or stigma, you can post a question here on our SANE Forums.


    2. Boundaries can be loving. Implementing boundaries for both yourself and your loved one can benefit you both in the long run. Boundaries allow time for you to reflect and prioritise yourself, which in turn supports your mental health and wellbeing. It’s important that, regardless of your loved one’s diagnosis, these boundaries are respected and communicated clearly between both parties. For tips on how to implement boundaries whilst caring for someone with complex mental health, reach out to our Help Centre here.


    3. Acknowledge burn out. It’s okay to feel emotionally fatigued in the process of caring for another. Many people experience guilt when they acknowledge this but it is important to recognise that burn out is common for many people in these situations. If you feel emotionally fatigued, it’s important to engage the support of a mental health professional to support you. The team at our Help Centre can talk you through the steps needed to find that qualified support.