Every day should be a day when we think about mental health, but devoting one day a year to raising awareness and driving change is the least we can do. This year, the theme is ‘mental health is a universal human right’, so we’re taking a look at how important it is for carers to have an awareness of mental health in both the people they support and themselves.
The importance of good mental health
Everyone deserves to have good mental health, no matter where they live, who they are, or what else they are affected by. This includes access to good quality care, being included in a community, having independence and being protected from risks.
Your mental health can affect your physical health and general wellbeing, so it’s essential to look after yourself mentally. It can have an impact on how you connect with other people and many aspects of your life. People with mental health conditions can experience isolation and discrimination and may feel their human rights have been neglected or violated.
Mental health and learning disabilities
People with learning disabilities are more likely to experience mental health problems. In fact, studies suggest the number of people with mental health conditions who have learning disabilities is up to double that of those who don’t. Common mental health conditions include anxiety, depression, eating disorders, dementia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and psychosis.
Recognising signs of poor mental health
People with learning disabilities often find communication difficult, meaning they may not be enabled to tell anyone if they are feeling down or anxious. Poor mental health can be expressed in unexpected ways which may be mistaken for challenging behaviour, so it’s down to carers to be aware of the moods of the person they are caring for. They must learn to recognise changes in behaviour that could be a cause of concern and to ensure the person has access to support if needed.
Self-care for carers
Carers, whether working professionally or caring for a family member, often don’t have much time to look after their own mental health. Although rewarding, care work can be challenging, and with time it can drain a person’s reserves. It is important for carers to find ways to support their own mental health so that they can be at their best when supporting someone else.
There are ways for carers to support themselves and access support to help make things easier, such as taking a break by using daycare or respite services. At Halland House, we offer daycare and can see the positive difference it makes to both the person needing care and those who care for them.
Support groups are available for carers, which offer an opportunity to talk with others in a similar situation. Just knowing you’re not alone can be helpful, and it can also be a good place to exchange tips and make friends.
Sometimes, talking to a professional is the best way to go. Your GP is a good place to start, or there are helplines available. Either way, it’s important to be honest and not to downplay how things really are. Talking about things is an important way of coping with the difficult parts of life, and blowing off steam or venting about it can be helpful. Someone trained to listen can sometimes give a different perspective and offer advice on coping strategies.