By Jackie Atkin, both a carer and Community Mental Health worker

I am passionate about the invaluable role that carers play in the support of their loved ones. I am first and foremost a mother and by the nature of that, a primary carer for my son. I took on this role following his diagnosis of Schizophrenia approximately 20 years ago. The support I offer my son is wide ranging and over the years has involved helping promote and encourage his independence through assisting him with his daily living tasks as well as supporting him with his overall emotional and mental wellbeing. I have also had to advocate on his behalf many times over the years, both with health professionals and local authority, to ensure that he was given the best care and treatment that he deserved and that he received the support he was entitled to. I strongly believe that if it weren’t for my input he would not have the quality of life and relative independence that he now has.

As well as my caring role I work fulltime as a level 3 support worker in a Community Mental Health Team, (CMHT). I have worked in the mental health trust for nearly 30 years where I have being committed to promoting in-house training for carer’s information which is based on the Triangle of Care that is now embedded within C.N.T.W. (Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust). The Triangle of Care principle is of Carer, Patient and Professional working together in the best interest of all. 

I guess you could say I have seen both sides of the coin. When my son first became unwell, I remember attending appointments for mental health assessments without any of my then colleagues actually being aware of my stress and anxieties. There was no carer’s leave and very little was known or spoken about with regard to carers, so again I just got on with it.

I find it interesting that this pandemic has seen the need for others to do extra shopping etc for members of their families and neighbour’s but as carers we have always done this, for us it is normality.

I think we are moving in the right direction though as we maybe don’t have to shout as loud, but this is often with the support from organisations like Gateshead Carers.  But there’s still work to be done and we still need to promote that everyone cares!