Reatha shares her story about being a young carer and also caring for herself. She talks about the importance of looking after yourself to help look after others.
As a young carer, a lot of responsibility lies on your shoulders. And no matter who you care for, there is always that overarching sense that you need to do more to help. However, this can take a toll on your own mental well-being. I know it did for me.
I have been a young carer for as long as I can remember. Yet like many other young carers, 39% of them to be exact, this went unnoticed by others for a long time. It was only during my final years of high school that it became public knowledge. But by then I was stressed with school, friendships, and of course my caring responsibilities. Anxiety and minor depression took a hit on my well-being, and it was only then that I reached out for support.
That was the best thing I had done.
It was already estimated that 1 in every 3 young carers suffered from a mental health issue. And with the recent COVID pandemic, this is thought to have increased by over 80%. Although it is important to note that personal well-being comes in many forms — both physically and mentally — and what might work for one person, something else might work for another. Here are some suggestions on how young carers can support their own well-being. And actually take time to care for themselves.
Reach out to your local carers group.
Most communities now have a support group for their local carers, often with young carer specific sessions. This is a great way to unwind and meet people who are experiencing the same situation as yourself. It's easy to find who they are by looking on Carers.org or Children's Society where you can search by postcode or county. This is not just a support network, but a way to gain access to retreats, guidance and recognition for what you do.
Caithness KLICS was my county's own young carer group. And although I don't attend it anymore, I am still in good contact with those who run it, knowing I have support no matter what!
Don't be afraid to talk about how you feel.
Open up to your family, friends or a teacher (if you feel comfortable to) and let them know how you are feeling. It may seem like a scary thing to do, but sometimes just talking to someone can make you feel a whole bunch better. Just because you are caring for someone, especially if it is in regards to their mental health, does not make your own any less valid.
However, if you don't feel comfortable talking to someone you personally know, that is ok too. There are plenty of charities out there that you can go to for extra support or counselling. This includes Childline (up to the age of 19) and The Mix (from 19 to 25).
If eligible - sign up for Young Scot's Young Carer Package.
Although this came out just after I reached the age where I couldn't access it myself, I have heard a lot of good things about the package. This free package allows young carers to gain access to opportunities that would most benefit them, both in terms of education, caring and most importantly respite. It’s important to remember to take time off for yourself. A time to recuperate, spend time with friends, and feel your age. The Young Carer Package can provide that with free cinema tickets, vouchers and subscriptions! And there’s no need to feel guilty - it’s your right as a carer.
A good resource for more tips on how to look after your well-being as a carer is Me>We’s Booklet for Young Carers. They have a whole section available on Looking After Yourself! I hope you’re able to take something away from this blog. Even if it’s just something small.
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Take a look at our Mindfulness Monday videos if you're looking for some mindfulness activities.
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For more information about supporting your mental health and emotional wellbeing visit our AyeFeel page.
Young Scot supports young people to share their own voices, views and opinions and works with partner organisations and professionals who are experts in different topics. The views expressed in this blog are those of the young people, organisations and/or individuals who have taken part in the blog, not necessarily the views of Young Scot.