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Life after School – Young Carers and Mental Health Problems

4 young carers said teachers did not support young carers or understand the impact of their caring role
on their school work:

“If you have a lot of stress on at home because of your caring and you can’t do your homework or study and you then get shouted and screamed at and you get detention. And it’s not our fault as we have had to care for our brother or sister or mum.”

These young carers were not asking for special treatment; they wanted support to enable them to carry out their caring responsibilities and manage school work:

“I don’t think they take us seriously when we have concerns … If we ask for extra help or an extension it’s not because we are being lazy, it’s because we really need it.”

A key concern about leaving school was the worry of leaving parents at home with no one to take on the caring role or the worry of leaving the responsibility to younger siblings:

“My brother’s gone and I know I will be gone so there will be no one at home to help out mum.”

For this young carer the challenge was shedding herself of the carer role after it being such a central feature of her life:

“I’m getting annoyed at myself as I know it shouldn’t hold me back but it’s just because I have been a young carer for so long..”

For 3 of the young carers the physical distance they felt able to be away from their family was a prime consideration in their decisions post-school:

“I’m really scared of leaving my mum as I will be 5 hours away”

The young carers were also concerned about the emotional and physical health of their parents:

“My friends can’t wait to move away as they know their parents will be fine and they know they aren’t going to need to call them every single day to check they have eaten and taken their medication and that they aren’t drunk or anything.”

Young Carers Support Groups provide a key role in transitions planning, providing information and emotional, practical and financial help and support:

“If you have a problem you can just go to them and speak to them and get a lot of support.”

One young carer spoke about her suicide attempts and how services missed key opportunities to step in:

“I’ve suffered with depression since I was 9…. there was one guy I had [at the CAMHS] when I was 14 and told him I had pills and he said ‘are you going to take them’ and I said ’no’ and then I did 3 days later …”

One care-experienced young person had weekly contact with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) for 3 years; when they left school all services stopped without support being put in by adult mental health services:

“I had 7 weeks’ sessions planned before I had to leave and it was fine and I knew what was planned for those sessions but then it just all suddenly dropped and I still needed the help.”

This was a similar experience for another young person:

“It was really bad at the time and I was dropped from everything – Primary Mental Health Worker, CAMHS who I had just started to see, Guidance and GP – everything stopped.”

For a transgender young person their time in mental health services had been “pretty tough” with them not feeling they had been listened to and confusion about the role their gender identity had contributing to their mental health problems:

“I don’t think this [mental health issues] was linked to my gender identity as I never felt misplaced amongst my friends and the gender wasn’t an issue.”

4 young carers felt strongly about the need for educational and awareness raising work in schools with pupils and, critically, staff.

“I think there should be an education programme for the teachers about being a young carer and mental health because a lot of them don’t get it at all. It should be an enforced course and not optional..”

One young carer said that young carers need a lot more support from teachers and the need for schools to identify someone young carers could speak to:

“If Guidance are busy then we need to be able to speak to someone else.”

3 of the young carers talked about the need for teachers to give extra help and time, for instance, with homework:

“Teachers should give a day more for homework just so we have time to do it or to offer to meet and help after school.”

3 young carers felt that a key improvement would be for someone (e.g. a Social Worker or a Support Worker) to work with the families to help them deal with, and prepare for, their young person leaving home.

“It’s a really long process to realise that I am going to leave home and sometimes you have to bring other people in to help.”

Two young carers spoke about the need for emotional support to enable them to make that transition of moving on.

“If someone sat down with you and gave you emotional support for leaving home…. people will keep you in the loop. When you’re away you don’t know what’s happening or if they are doing ok without you.”

One care-experienced young person felt that improvements were needed around continuity of care and support and that:

“There should be some contact even after you leave the service to see how you are getting on, say a month later – there should be some connection”

Support should not suddenly stop for young people once they leave school nor should there be a delay in accessing adult mental health services:

“…. I went from having 4 people to support me to having zero”

“I didn’t see anyone else until February from New Craigs other
than the GP”

Notes should be transferred from CAMHS to adult mental health services as failure to can
cause distress:

“I had to repeat all the information about what had happened again – it was reliving repressed memories and they are difficult things to speak to people.”