Local music therapist Meghan Thamm holds a music therapy workshop as part of Mental Health Carers awareness week.
Local music therapist Meghan Thamm holds a music therapy workshop as part of Mental Health Carers awareness week. Marc Stapelberg

Catering for needs of carers of prople with mentally illness

AS RATES of mental illness increase, millions of Australians are silently shouldering the load of caring for those affected.

Providing these people with vital support was the aim of yesterday's carer's well-being day at Lismore City Hall.

On offer for carers was nutrition advice with local GP Dr Marion Tate, and relaxing practices such as art and music therapy and mindfulness practice.

The Family and Carer Mental Health Program which put on the event is run by Mission Australia and funded by the Mental Health Drug and Alcohol Office NSW.

It aims to ensure carers who are often caring for their loved ones without recognition are getting the support they need.

Carer support worker Jennifer Owen-Holmes said often family members did not identify as carers because they are caring for loved ones who frequently remained undiagnosed.

"Some go undiagnosed all their lives… they don't want to be pigeon-holed," she said.

"So they still might have some of the behaviours [of mental illness], they may or may not be medicated, and the families are dealing with that on a daily basis.

"That's where often their own well-being goes on the backburner.

"They're looking after their loved one or their family member and they're not looking after themselves, so they don't get the respite they need."

And just like there's a slowly eroding stigma attached to mental illness, there is also a stigma to being a carer of those with mental illness, or pride simply gets in the way.

Ms Owen-Holmes said one area of need was the Aboriginal community, whose members often failed to identify as a carer "because it's part of their community to support each other."

For carers, she said, the best thing was to be part of a support group or have a one-on-one chat.

"Often it's just about feeling heard," she said.

"Carers need to look after their own well-being so they can keep on keeping on."

To find out more about the Family and Carer Mental Health Program, call 6623 7401.



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