by Jim Mitchell, Herald Sun
“IT’S a difficult truth that voluntary carers and supporters of people with mental illness can get lost in the vital public discussion of this scourge that affects so many.
They’re the silent ballast of millions of loved ones around the country. They’re not likely to want for recognition. They just do what needs to be done.
But how do we value their selfless and tireless efforts? Is it even possible to put a value on such a gift?
A report released last year by Mind Australia and the University of Queensland gives a sobering insight into the economic value of informal mental health carers.
Consider these numbers.
In Australia in 2015, about 240,000 informal carers gave 208 million hours of support, equivalent to the direct support work time of nearly 180,000 full-time mental health workers per year.
The sum of $8.5 billion was spent on mental health services in 2014-15. The report estimates the value of informal carers to State and Federal governments to be a staggering $13.2 billion.
It’s a measure of just how unacknowledged and undervalued they are.
But it’s not just the monetary value of carers that’s being ignored.
What too often gets overlooked, is the mental health of family, friends and significant others who care for those with mental illness. It takes a deep reservoir of empathy and patience to support someone, especially those with severe and chronic conditions.
The wellbeing of carers and supporters needs to be as much a focal point as the sufferers of mental illness.
This is in no way to suggest that those in the grip of mental illness are in any way to blame, or should feel any sense of burden. These are oppressive, aggressive conditions and support from family, friends and mental health professionals is what keeps us alive.
Perhaps the first step towards greater recognition is simply to voice what these loving carers mean to us.”