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Why we need to learn more about stress and resilience in unpaid carers

As someone who has worked alongside carers and had caring responsibilities in childhood, my heart goes out to the young people who are stuck indoors, in what may be a very tense time in the home. For me, going to school was one of my escapisms and a chance to feel normal. Having social services offer respite for my family was a lifeline and I know that hasn’t always been possible in recent months. The idea of having that taken away would be incredibly tough right now. Whilst you may care deeply for the person you care for, the importance of having some time for yourself is so important.

In the UK, around 1 in 8 adults are carers, with 1.3 million people estimated to be providing care for over 50 hours a week It is also estimated that 700,000 to 1 million under 18s are young carers. According to the charity Carers UK, carers providing high levels of care are more likely to suffer poor mental health due to their caring role, with 8 in 10 reporting feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Approximately 30 – 40% of carers report clinical depression and other indicators of psychological distress, and reports of distress and burden can persist. 

The  COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly added an extra layer of complexity for many carers. They may not be able to access some of their current support networks or services, are unable to go to school or work for a brief respite from caring duties. Some may need to change their routines to support their loved one advised by the government to be ‘shielded’ or self-isolate during the pandemic.

The challenges faced by carers are complex, and we know that high levels of carer burden are linked with greater levels of carer distress and negative caregiving relationships. Understanding why some carers remain resilient under this long-term pressure and burden, while others develop anxiety and depression, is vital in order to identify new targets for intervention.

That’s why we are running an online study that looks at resilience and distress in unpaid carers. It’s a study I’ve been involved in as a volunteer outside of my 9-5 job because I want the voices of carers to be heard, and for these voices to shape the direction of future psychological therapies tailored to the needs of carers.

If you have 35 minutes to spare, please consider taking part in this one-off, online survey. We are looking to recruit carers of people with dementia, multiple sclerosis, cancer or any mental health condition. We are also looking for people who are not carers to take part in our control group. You can sign up via MQ’s Participate platform As a thank you for your time, you have the chance to enter a prize draw for prizes of up to £100 in Amazon vouchers.

Finally, to all of the carers out there, you’re amazing. Things might be really tough right now, or perhaps you’re doing better than expected; however you feel, that’s ok. You’re not alone, there are so many other carers going through this right now and chances are, you’re not the only one feeling this way.

Last updated: 10 July 2020

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