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10-16 June 2024

Georgie, who lives with depression and anxiety, has been supporting her son through schizophrenia for nearly 35 years. She shares the impact this has had and the difficulties of being a carer.

"When Christian became ill, it hit me like a ton of bricks. The first seven years were horrendous. To develop schizophrenia at any age is devastating, but harder if you’re only 15. Chris had no experience of work, socialising, driving, relationships. We were either incredibly sad because he was spending his life in bed or absolutely terrified by him hearing voices or seeing things.

"On 27.12.97, Christian went into an acute ward. He didn’t come home again for five years.After our first visit to Chris on the ward, my husband and I went straight from the hospital to Basildon town centre. Everything felt unreal, we both felt numb. We were exhausted, sleeping until about 2pm, and although neither of us was going to work, it seemed as much as we could do to keep the home tidy. We lived on takeaway meals.

"Chris was, still is sometimes, plagued by his thoughts, moods or feelings and this in turn affects, or should I say ‘infects’, his loved ones. It’s almost as if a light goes out and we’re left frantically searching for the switch.

"Sometimes I get so tired of the responsibility of being a carer, forever thinking: what will happen when we’re gone? What about my other son and my daughter-in-law and the burden that it will inevitably put on them? My mum is 81, my sister is ill, what if something happens to them? Will Chris relapse?

"Carers need emotional support to help them come to terms with their loss and the enormity of their situations. A doctor suggested that Chris and I attend family therapy, as well as a carers’ group which I attended for three years. Carers find comfort in each other, and having someone take the time to talk over the past has helped me to work through things and take stock of my own behaviour, emotions and feelings.

"When someone you love becomes mentally ill, you go through many stages before you reach acceptance. Professionals can play a very important role in this process, by giving the right level of support and perseverance. The service user has to come first, but professionals should also take carers into consideration because we also have to recover."

With thanks to Georgie for sharing her story.

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