Who will care for the carers?
One in every nine Victorians is a carer. A carer is an unpaid family member (of choice or origin) or friend who supports a person with a disability, mental illness, chronic illness, terminal illness, or older person with care needs.
Over half of all carers will experience moderate depression. For some people this is severe.
The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System has heard loud and clear from carers through consultations, submissions and witness testimony.
This was encapsulated in the Commission’s Interim Report. It was encouraging to see that the Commission recognises the many challenges that carers experience, but also the “courage and determination” exhibited by carers.
The Commission stated that carers are “central to the Commission’s ongoing work to redesign the mental health system”.
This redesigned mental health system needs to effectively engage with and support the carers of people receiving mental health services.
However, this system needs to take a much broader view of the role and impact of being a carer. It will need to consider that there are over 700,000 carers who are more likely to need mental health support than people who are not (or not yet) carers.
What does this look like in practice?
It will involve changes in clinical services. Continued implementation of the Chief Psychiatrist Guideline for working together with families and carers is crucial.
So too are interventions aimed at improving carers’ knowledge and abilities are beneficial in reducing carer distress, providing psychological support, improving coping and crisis management skills, and improving carers’ quality of life.
As the Commission identifies, being a carer is a juggling act. It is significantly harder for carers to balance other aspects of their lives alongside their caring role.
As noted in the Interim Report, many carers face significant challenges balancing paid employment and/or study. Supporting carers with this balance by engaging employers and educational institutions will significantly support the mental health of carers.
It is fantastic that the Commission acknowledges the central role carers play in the mental health system. Carers Victoria looks forward to a redesigned mental health system that supports the one in nine Victorians who are carers.
Dylan Jansz is a Senior Policy and Research Advisor at Carers Victoria.
Carers Victoria will be represented at the forthcoming symposium Putting It All Together by CEO Sue Peden. She will participate in a panel responding to a keynote address by Pam Anders, CEO of Mental Health Reform Victoria, on implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission’s final report. Full program