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Chapter 9 Section E: Getting carer support

Caring for a person with a mental health condition can have a big impact on the carer, especially over a long period of time. Caring can be a meaningful and rewarding experience, but it can also have a social and emotional impact on carers. For example, carers are more likely than the general population to experience psychological distress, and some may experience mental health difficulties themselves. Caring can place stress on the relationship between families, carers and the person living with a mental health condition.

If carers receive support for themselves, this can help them to continue to care for the person with a mental health condition over the long term, but also help the carers themselves to maintain their own well-being.

This chapter provides information about:

9E.1: General support services for carers

There are several information and support services for carers of people living with mental health conditions:

Mental Health Carers NSW provides information and support for people with family members and/or friends living with mental health conditions. Call 1300 554 660* or (02) 9332 0700 from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres provide free and confidential information on support services available locally for people with mental health conditions and their carers.

NSW Family and Carer Mental Health Support Program delivers programs that provide support and information to families and carers during the early stages of diagnosis and treatment. These programs include:

  • Family Friendly Mental Health Services – supporting and training staff to particularly include families and carers in the service system and be responsive to their unique needs.
  • Mental Health Family and Carer Support Programs – direct support services delivered through non-government organisations that provide education and training to build coping skills and resilience, individual support and advocacy, and infrastructure support for peer support groups.
  • Improving access to Generic Family and Carer Supports.

The NSW Family and Carer Mental Health Program is a state-wide program funded by the NSW Ministry of Health, and delivered in partnership between local health districts, the Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network and five specialist community managed organisations:

The program works in partnership to improve the wellbeing of families and carers of people with mental health conditions, and the people they support by:

  • offering education and training packages that teach families and carers about mental illness and its management, including how to help build coping skills and resilience
  • providing information, resources, one-on-one support, advocacy and coordinating support groups
  • supporting families and carers with additional needs and cultural diversity
  • providing clinical services and delivering health promotion activities.
  • For further information about the program see NSW Family and Carer Mental Health Program Framework.

Mental Health Respite: Carer Support Program provides a range of flexible respite options for carers of people living with mental health conditions and/ or intellectual disability.

Carers Australia Mental Health Counselling Service: provides an opportunity to talk to someone about your caring role, for example how to cope with change, manage stress, balance work and caring, cope with loss and grief, deal with relationship change and access services, supports and information. You can call 1800 242 636* from anywhere in Australia to speak to a counsellor. Click here for more information.

Sane Australia conducts programs and campaigns to improve the lives of people with mental illness, their family and friends. Sane Australia also provides a helpline that can be accessed by telephone (1800 187 263*) or online. Ask a health professional for details of support groups and other services for family carers in your local area. There may also be groups for young people whose families are affected. Visit the SANE Forums online to share experiences, information, and support with other family carers.

One Door Mental Health, Carer Services has a number of programs that assist carers and families of people living with mental health conditions. Contact the Info and support line on 1800 843 539*

*Mobile phone calls to freecall numbers (numbers starting with 1800 or 1300) are charged to the caller at the usual mobile rate.

9E.2: Information and support services for young carers

The caring role can have an impact on young carers and their ability to engage in typical experiences of childhood or adolescence, their study and their work. For example, they may be worried about falling behind in school. A young carer may feel like the mental health system does not provide them with enough information or consult (discuss) issues with them if a parent is admitted to a public mental health facility.

Some helpful services and resources specifically for young carers are found below:

Kids Helpline provides counselling and referrals for young people aged 25 years old and under. It has a 24-hour telephone helpline (1800 55 1800*). You can also get help by email or by using the Kids Helpline web counselling service. To find out more, click here.

On Fire is a peer support program that gives young people whose parents or siblings have mental illness opportunities to learn and grow. The program builds greater hope, resilience and wellbeing in young people aged eight (8) – seventeen (17) years whose lives are affected by mental illness. Young people can refer themselves, or be referred by health services or their families. Regular fun days occur throughout the year, offering young people the chance to meet new friends in similar family situations, have fun, and have a break. Day camps are run twice a year, combining fun activities, peer support, mental health and wellbeing groups, life skills and respite.

Young Carers NSW provides information on support and counselling services, has a section for young carers with families from non-English speaking backgrounds, as well as information for specific age groups.

Young Carers Australia provides information on how to get help and support, as well as how to deal with young carer-specific situations and associated emotions.

Children of Parents with a Mental Illness (COPMI) provides useful information to people who care for a parent with a mental health condition.

Young Carer Program provides young carers with respite (a break) from caring so they can have time to study. To find out if you are eligible, visit the website or call 1800 052 222* (Monday to Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm).

Young Carers Respite and Information Services Program and the NDIS: the program assists young carers who need support to complete their secondary education or the vocational equivalent because of the demands of their caring role. A young carer is someone aged up to 25 years old who is the main provider of care and support for a parent, partner, child, relative or friend with a disability. The program can help young carers with respite and information services.

* Mobile phone calls to freecall numbers (numbers starting with 1800) are charged to the caller at the usual mobile rate

9E.3: Financial assistance when caring for someone with a mental health condition, illness or disability

When caring for someone living with a mental health condition, illness or disability, you may need some financial assistance and/or services to help you.

For further information about financial assistance for carers, see below:

  • Carer Payment and Carer Allowance can provide financial assistance if you provide care every day to someone with a disability, mental health condition, illness, or who is frail aged.
  • Carer Supplement is an annual lump sum payment to help you with the costs of caring for a person with a disability.
  • Carer Adjustment Payment can provide one off financial assistance to help you with the care needs of a child aged under seven (7) years after a sudden accident, illness or disability.
  • Child Disability Assistance Payment is an annual payment that helps you with the costs of caring for a child with a disability.
  • The Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme can help parents and carers of school aged students who cannot go to state school on a daily basis because they have a disability or have special health needs.

For information about Centrelink for people with a mental health condition, click here.

Financial assistance for people needing care

There are payments to help you with the cost of medical equipment you need due to your disability or illness.

  • The Continence Aids Payment Scheme provides an annual payment to cover the cost of buying continence products from the supplier of your choice.
  • The Essential Medical Equipment Payment is an annual $160 payment if you experience additional increases in home energy costs from the use of essential medical equipment to manage your disability or medical condition.

Other government and community support services

There are a range of other organisations that provide support services and useful information.

  • Better Start for Children with Disability Initiative provides information about early intervention services and treatments for eligible children with disability.
  • Helping Children with Autism package website provides information about support and services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, their families and carers.
  • If you are experiencing depression, anxiety or stress, you may find it helpful to talk to somebody about your mental health situation.
  • The Carers Australia website provides information about the needs and interests of carers at the national level. The members of this peak body are from the 8 state and territory Carers Associations.
  • The National Disability Insurance Scheme provides support information about providing community linking and individualised support for people who are carers of people living with mental health conditions.

Updated September 25, 2020