Working with families & carers of people with a psychosocial disability

Aug 15
Author:Jane Henty
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A mental health carer is someone who provides unpaid care and support to a family member or friend with a mental illness or mental health condition. A carer may or may not live with the person they support. In some cases and on some occasions a person with a mental illness may not be cognisant of that illness and/or may not recognise the role of a person who provides a significant level of support to them.  For this reason, a carer does not necessarily need to be identified by the individual with a mental illness to be their carer.[1]

Family members have increasingly taken on community mental health care roles over the past 20 years. This is because most people with a mental illness live in the community and are assisted by family, friends and neighbours.

The support carers give to people with a mental illness is vital. On average, carers of people with a mental illness spend 104 hours a week caring.[2] Caring can have a negative impact on a persons’ emotional wellbeing. In one study, carers had the lowest collective wellbeing score of any group, and had an average rating on the depression scale that is classified as moderate depression.[3]

The NDIS and Mental Health Carers

National Disability Services states, “A carer, unless they too have a disability and meet the NDIA’s access requirements, cannot be a NDIS participant in their own right. However, the NDIA states they recognise the vital role of respite, and aims to support families and carers in their caring role.”[4],[5] The NDIS also explains that the planning process should identify supports for the participant that may have a direct or indirect benefit for the family and carer.[6]

In respect to the NDIS, the contribution of mental health carers is crucial to attaining positive outcomes for participants with psychosocial disability. This is because carer involvement is often important to ensuring that:

  • The assessment of the person with psychosocial disability is accurate and captures the impact of their disability on their everyday functioning.
  • The support plan is applicable to the participant’s needs and takes account of the role of the carer and the whole family.
  • The support plan also supports the sustainability of the caring relationship. [7]

According to Carers NSW’s consultation with carers and service providers in the Hunter trial site, carers’ experiences with the planning process have varied greatly depending on the planner they encounter. Some carers feel their needs have been thoroughly considered and met, however others have felt excluded from the conversation and as though their needs and opinions did not matter.[8]

The Mental Health Reform conference, taking place in November, will discuss strategies for adapting to the new environment of the NDIS. Book your place by September 16th to save $300 on ticket prices. 

Mental Health 2016

[1] Arafmi Mental Health Carers Australia 2014, p.1
[2] Access Economics. The Economic Value of Informal Care in 2010. Report for Carers Australia; 2010
[3] Cummins R, Hughes J, Tomyn A. The Wellbeing of Australians- Carer Health and Wellbieng. Melbourne: Deakin University; 2007
[4] National Disability Services. 2013. National Disability Insurance Scheme: Frequently asked questions as at September 2013
[5] NDIS. (2013). NDIS Operational Guideline – General Conduct – Supporting Participants’ Decision-Making NDIS
[6] NDIS. 2015. Information for families and carers. Retrieved 11 May 2015, from
[7] Carers Australia. (2015). Retrieved 30th July 2015 form
[8] Carers NSW. 2014. The NDIS one year in: Experiences of carers in the Hunter trial site, A Carers NSW issues paper

Submitted by Jane Henty

Jane Henty

Jane is Project Manager at Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA), and former Executive Officer for Mental Health Carers Arafmi Australia. Her interest in social justice and health has led her to work the community sector, clinical health services, and also internationally with carer and consumer grass roots organisations. She started her career in nursing, and now works in community based organizations. She has over 10 years’ experience working in the mental health sector, with qualifications in nursing, communications and public health.

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