Norfolk Carers ‘Walk and Talk’ in Gorleston. Sue is pictured second from right in the blue jacket.
Looking after a family member or friend who cannot cope on their own can be challenging – but if that person has mental health problems, there are often be additional worries and concerns. Sue Pooley, who’s 59 and from Gorleston, cares for her husband who has bi polar depression with psychosis:
“It can be really frustrating. It affects whether we can go out. He’s no good in crowds. Trains are out. Going to London is a complete no-no and we can’t go anywhere that’s too busy. You have to plan trips and he has to psych himself up; work out whether he’s up to it. He doesn’t like going out on his own, so yes it can be very frustrating.”
“I’m used to it now; it’s been going on for about 13 years. The only time I struggle is when he’s having an episode. That can be really hard. My Norfolk Carers support worker Julie really helps. I go on her walks. It all helps and it gets me out; it’s time for me.”
“My advice to anyone in the same position would be to take one day at a time and don’t expect too much from your loved one. Doing things for myself has helped, otherwise you’re stuck indoors and in a bit of a rut.”
Diane Steels is Carer’s Assessor and Assistant Practitioner for Mental Health Social Care East. She says mental health conditions are still not very well understood by the public and can present unique challenges for carers:
“People looking after someone with mental health problems can worry about the stigma associated with mental health. This might mean they don’t reach out for support.
There’s often a big difference between the public’s understanding of mental health and other conditions. Friends may not be as sympathetic to carers in this situation and may fail to understand the impact caring is having on their lives and wellbeing.
Unpaid carers looking after someone with a mental health condition are often more likely to need support to manage their own mental health. Levels of anxiety can be really high and often unmanaged because the mental health of the person they’re looking after is likely to be unpredictable and fluctuate.”