A carer is anybody who provides unpaid support to a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their illness, frailty or disability.
You may not see yourself as a carer but rather as the parent, son, daughter, brother, sister, friend or partner of a person who is affected by mental health difficulties. Caring is clearly part of your relationship with this person but it’s likely that you will be providing more emotional/physical support than the average family member or friend would for someone unaffected by a health issue. You may live with the person you care for or they might live elsewhere.
When accessing help and support from organisations the word ‘carer’ can help you to access their information, support, services, and benefits or allowances. It is a term recognised by health and social care services who will have policies related to carers at both local and national levels. Some agencies may use a tighter definition of being a carer, for example when applying for a carers allowance the number of hours each week that care is provided, will be taken into account .
Most people will have caring responsibilities at some time in their lives, and will have to face the challenges that these responsibilities bring. Many carers juggle their caring responsibilities with work, study and other family commitments. Some people , particularly younger carers, may chose not to be known as carers, and avoid telling relatives, friends and health and care professionals because of fear of separation, guilt, pride or other personal reason.
You may also find it useful to read this Rethink Carers Guide: