Am I A Carer?
A carer is someone who provides support to a family member, partner or friend who has a mental illness, disability, drug and/or alcohol misuse issues, terminal illness, chronic condition or someone who is ageing and frail. In Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities (CALD), many people do not even realise that they are ‘carers’. For many people, being a carer is just part of being family. Therefore, you might think it is your responsibility to care for a loved one who is unwell, because they are family and it’s what you do. To be identified as a carer, you do not need to live with the person who is unwell, you do not need to be the main source of care and support or receiving a payment- you just need to help someone regularly
Barriers Carers from CALD Communities Might Face
Members of CALD communities often depend on their loved ones for help. This is often due to their strong cultural expectation to care for their relatives, partner or friend with a mental illness (Poon and Lee 2019: 318). It is common for those caring to not perceive themselves as ‘carers’. It is also common to not seek support because of one’s traditional beliefs and understanding of mental illness. For example, a person may not seek professional help because they view it as a
failure to fulfil their responsibilities. The person experiencing the mental illness may also describe their symptoms differently, and so you may not think to seek support.
A number of studies have reported that carers from CALD communities faced barriers and challenges due to:
- Language and communication difficulties
- Lack of awareness of services
- Caring as a duty not as a choice
- Reliance on their family for help
- Strong emotions such as anger, fear and guilt. For example, the carer may feel as though they are at fault, that the mental illness could have been prevented
- Fear of the lack of confidentiality in small communities
- Stigmatisation of people with a disability or an illness (Poon and Lee 2019: 320).
Younger carers in CALD communities may adapt to the Australian mental health care system more easily, while older members tend to adhere more to familiar cultural traditions. This is identified in the types of services accessed by CALD carers, and whether it is believed that the service is suitable (Ethnic Disability Advocacy Services).
CALD carers can experience caring differently. For most, it is much easier to give help than to receive help. More than often, carers focus on the symptoms of the individual they are caring for and how they can best treat that, rather than on their own personal wellbeing and how this can affect the care they are providing. It is important to find out what works best for you as a carer, the supports that are available, and how to seek help.
- Try to be open minded about the supports that are out there and what services you may like to go to. You may learn something that you did not know before and learn about the and the questions you need to ask. For example, how to monitor and manage symptoms of the person you are caring for.
- Learn about the health system where you can. Visit your local doctor and ask them to inform you on the types of services that are available, where and how you can access them. Ask them what your rights as a carer are, to ensure you have access to information regarding the person you are caring for.
- Sometimes seeking help for yourself can be difficult, but many people from many different communities report feeling better when they have sought help. Speaking with a healthcare professional such as a counsellor can assist with better communicating and managing the relationship with the person you are caring for. It can also help in making sure you are meeting your own needs while caring.
- There can be a high level of stigma in CALD communities. However, you are not alone. Many people from different cultural communities have a lived experience of being a carer for someone with a mental health condition. Reach out and connect with a support group, where you can speak with other people.
- Communication is essential for maintaining our identity and connecting us to others. Speaking to a trusted person, such as a friend, can create a space for you to talk about how you are feeling as carer. It can also allow you to engage in conversations that are not about caring. This can help separate caring from other aspects of your life.
- Learn to identify when you are starting to feel stressed and overwhelmed in your caring role. For example, you might have a short temper, or experience mood swings. Use these signs as a reminder to take some ‘me’ time, so that you can support your person in a more calming and understanding way.
“Carer support groups enable me to share my experiences with others as well as learn about others’ experiences. It also gives me time out from my carer’s role in addition to mental and emotional support.” (Carers NSW)
This guide provides information on how to access information of the person you are caring for when they are in hospital and which health staff to speak to: ‘Patient Information and Privacy; A Guide for Carers and Family’
This fact sheet provides information on CALD carers and the barriers to access support. It also provides a number of mental health services that are available: ‘Fact sheet: Mental health services for people of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds’
This resource provides a list of multicultural health services and organisations for CALD carers: ‘Mental health services and organisations’
Transcultural Mental Health Centre’s Carer Brochure: This brochure addresses the role or caring, the benefits of attending a support group, and forums that are available for CALD carers to meet and share their stories.
Transcultural Mental Health Centre’s Carer Support Group Program: This resource offer information on support groups for CALD carers across the Sydney metropolitan areas
This short video offers insight into the lives of carers in CALD communities.
The following organisations offer specific support for carers or CALD communities. Contact these organisations for information, support and assistance.
Transcultural Mental Health Centre – Work with people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, health professionals and partner organisations across NSW to support good mental health. They offer translated resources and run support groups in various language.
Phone: 02 9912 3850
Address: 53, Cumberland Hospital Campus, 5 Fleet St, North Parramatta NSW 2151
Multicultural Disability Advocacy Support Association – Provide a range of advocacy services for families and carers from culturally and linguistically diverse, and non-English speaking backgrounds with disability in NSW. Such as: assistance with housing and immigration, and community engagement groups.
Phone: 1800 629 072
Address: 10-12 Hutchinson Street Granville NSW 2142
STARTS – Provide culturally relevant psychological treatment and support to help people and communities heal the scars of torture and refugee trauma and rebuild their lives in Australia. This includes counselling, support groups, group work, therapy, referral and case management.
Website: https://www. starts.org.au
Phone: 02 9646 6700
Address: 152–168 The Horsley Drive Carramar NSW 2163
Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) – provide access to phone and on-site interpreting services in over 150 languages.
Phone: 13 14 50
National Disability insurance Scheme (NDIS) – their website has a range of information in different languages.
Phone: 1800 800 110
Financial Counsellors Association of NSW – assist people in financial difficulty by providing information and support to help them deal with their financial problems.
Phone: 1800 007 007