5.1 Relationships and engagement
Caring for a relative with severe mental health problems is a distinct and unique experience and a steep learning curve for which few people are prepared. The relationship and engagement between families and professionals is therefore of great importance.
Reflect on how you think family carers should be helped by mental health professionals. Jot down your thoughts in the box below.
You might have considered that family caring in mental health is distinct from other kinds of caring and also very personal to the relationship the family has with the cared-for person. Because of this, you might think that mental health professionals should recognise that the needs of the family are not necessarily the same as the needs of the person being cared for. You might have thought that it is better if the family is involved and included in decisions made about the cared-for person and is acknowledged as a source of expert knowledge.
It is possible that you jotted down some barriers to effective caring: carers being taken for granted and isolated. Your own experience might have led you to conclude that family carers have been trapped in the confines of their caring role and just expected to cope.
On a more positive note, you perhaps know that there are ways to overcome these barriers; for example, by taking into account family carers’ rights and responsibilities. This means listening to and taking seriously what they have to say. Providing timely support and assistance demonstrates to families that their responsibilities are recognised, and that they have a valued part to play in decision making and treatment approaches. It would also be to the family’s advantage to learn more about mental health and highlight any cultural diversity elements to professionals.