In the UK, one in every ten people is a carer. That’s seven million people, which is set to rise to around 10 million by 2030.
Being a carer takes many forms and doesn’t always come from a care home or the NHS. Care can be provided by relatives, friends and neighbours and is often unpaid. It’s estimated that the economic value of the contribution made by carers in the UK is £132 billion. To replace these unpaid carers with paid workers would cost a staggering £56.9 billion.
Beyond the financial implications, caring itself carries a toll. 72% of carers in the UK said they have suffered mental ill health and 61% of people have seen their physical health worsened as a result of caring (Annual State of Caring Survey, 2018). Only 4% of respondents said their mental health had not been affected.
Alexia Severis has been a counsellor for over two decades, and provides online therapeutic support, largely to carers. She knows from experience the value they bring, the reward they can feel and the suffering they endure:
“Carers need and deserve all the support we can give them as they fulfil an incredibly important and valuable role in our society. Caring for a loved one can take both a physical and emotional toll due to the intensity, responsibility and stress to get it right for the other person.”
Typically, caring responsibilities limit the time available to individuals in which to leave the house to carry out everyday tasks such as going to the shops or collecting prescriptions.
Finding respite can also be a big barrier to carers accessing the help and support they need. But this is a necessity if we are to preserve the work carers do, often over long periods of time and sometimes at great personal cost.
Technology is a lifeline to many carers; 81% of carers use technology as a source of information and 39% use the internet as a form of communication or online support (Annual State of Caring Survey, 2018).
According to Alexia: “Online services are extremely important as they allow carers access to counselling regardless of whether they can get respite care. Beyond evidence-based interventions, carers can access emotional support and use the peer-to-peer support facilities to feel part of an online community.”
For some it’s about regaining self-esteem and control over their lives.
Alexia: “A lot of carers I have previously worked with had to relearn self-respect, good boundaries and how to engage in activities without constant guilt. The vital counselling and support that carers get wouldn’t have been accessible if it wasn’t online”.
Access to mental health support is essential for everyone, regardless of their situation. As one carer told their online counsellor: “Your support makes me feel really safe. After every session I always feel a little lighter and cared for and not on my own. You are still there supporting me and getting me through every day. I might not be here without your help.”