General News — 14 May 2012

A survey has found a high number of children under the age of 16 are caring for relatives with mental health problems, and many of them are struggling to cope with the burden.

More than 1,000 Australians were interviewed for the Wesley Mission report, which found 90 per cent of relatives of people with a mental illness are suffering physically, mentally and financially.

Three quarters of respondents said their role as caregivers had adversely affected their relationships with family and friends, and 57 per cent said their financial situation had deteriorated.

The Wesley Mission’s Dr Keith Garner says they were shocked by the number of careers who are under the age of 16.

“Many that begin under the age of 16, who are actually caring for parents, and we’ve used the term caring till it hurts, and many of them have exactly that experience, “he said.

He says more effort needs to be made to identify young carers in the community.

“It’s not just about money, we’ve called them the unsung heroes of our community, but it’s about people being aware of their situation and offering appropriate support,” he said.

“So we’ve called upon health services, GPs and schools to be more ready to identify the approach that might come to them from young people who are deeply affected by it.”

Dr Garner says the group is formulating an action plan to try and address the issues identified in the report.

“We’re recommending that it’s mandatory for teachers to be provided with an understanding of the presenting issues for children and young people who may actually be caregivers,” he said.

Dr Garner says many carers do not seek help and there needs to be more of an effort made to reach out to them.

“We’re convinced that this Wesley report raises questions about the effect upon families and the fact that this actually carries long term cost, not only to them, but to our community also,” he said.

“It’s a really urgent call to action.”

As first appeared in ABC News, 14 May 2012


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