Sunday 20 October 2019

Young Carers: Looking after your mental wellbeing

Courtney shares her experience of prioritising her mental health while being a young carer. 

- Courtney McDonald

For me, being a young carer while in education has been very hard. I’ve had so many obstacles in my way, and many times I’ve wanted to give up, but with encouragement I’ve carried on. I became a carer in my first year of college. I was often having to put my family before my education; however, I was determined to do the best I could in my situation. 

Whilst in college I found it particularly hard to concentrate on doing assignments and revision whilst at home due to all the added responsibilities I had. I found that setting aside a small amount of time each day to sit and do some of the work was more productive. Now I’m in my second year of university, I haven’t let becoming a carer at a young age stop me from doing something I want to do. It’s been a lot harder than it has for other people my age but I’m glad I stuck at it. 

Although I often come across as being a confident young lady, I experience difficulties with my mental health and have done for several years. As a carer putting my family’s needs before my own has always been my priority, which has often meant I’ve neglected looking after myself. I am now 19 and I have had to grow up a lot faster than most other people my age since I have added responsibility. This meant my social life often took a back seat but now I have more of a balance, which is really important for any carer but particularly young carers and young adult carers. 

I self-referred to a mental health service and not long after I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorder. I have had counselling and I am currently receiving treatment in the form of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and antidepressant medication to help improve my symptoms.

However, many carers would agree that no matter how much people tell you that you should put yourself first, the person you care for often always comes first. Caring for someone can be both physically and mentally draining. 

I know how hard it is to find time for yourself as a carer, however, it is really important to make time for self-care. Whether that be 10 minutes to sit and have a cup of tea, reading a bit of a book or going on a short walk to clear your mind. Just having a short amount of time to yourself can be all you need. 

I want young carers and young adult carers to know that no matter what obstacles are thrown in your direction, you can succeed in whatever you want to do. 

To find support for your mental health, check out the Student Minds’s website here. For information more specific to young carers, check out Carers Trust’s website here.

Hope Support have created a guide for university students who support family members, written by young people, which offers tips for students in similar situations: Support through a family health crisis.

Hi, I’m Courtney. I’m currently studying Healthcare at university and wanted to write for Student Minds to not only raise more awareness of young carers, but also to show people being a young carer shouldn’t stop you from moving forward in terms of education. 

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