Carers Week is an annual event that seeks to raise awareness of the contributions carers make to their families and the difficulties they face to fulfil their role. Carers are unpaid but what they do for their loved ones is essential, and not often recognised. Over 6.5 million people in the UK are carers for family members, 800,000 of which are young carers under the age of 18. A study by the ONS across working-age people between 2011 and 2015 suggested that UK carers are 3 times more vulnerable to suicide than the national average.
Young carers face many challenges. Looking after loved ones in their families for some young carers will be very rewarding. For lots of young carers though, they face an overwhelming sense of responsibility such as supporting family members emotionally and physically. Some young carers report missing school and not having time for homework. It can be hard, too, for young carers to socialise as much as other young children. This can lead to feelings of isolation. 68% of young carers have experienced bullying because of their caring role.
Due to these factors, young carers can be more vulnerable to thoughts of suicide. The HOPELINEUK service has heard from young carers who say the pressures and isolation of their caring role has lead them to think about suicide. Young carers often talk about feeling guilty because, on one hand, they want to be supportive of their loved ones but they also struggle to meet their own needs at times too.
Here at HOPELINEUK, if you are a young person experiencing thoughts of suicide, we can offer practical advice and support to help you keep safe from thoughts of suicide for now. We can also help you find ongoing support that’s specifically aimed at carers.
Caring for someone you know who is experiencing thoughts of suicide is incredibly difficult. Lots of people share with us that they can feel incredibly responsible for making sure the person they are supporting can keep safe from suicide; that the responsibility is theirs alone. This can feel really overwhelming and it can be something that becomes all-encompassing for carers who often lose sight of their own needs and lives.
Despite how hard it is supporting someone through thoughts of suicide, the carers we speak to at HOPELINEUK tell us that they are happy doing it – they want to offer support. But they also want some help in doing so, and they need some guidance. This is hardly surprising due to the fear of losing someone you care about to suicide. And it’s absolutely ok as a carer to ask for help and support, this isn’t selfish or uncaring – it’s absolutely essential.
The concerned others we hear from at HOPELINEUK can range from parents, siblings, teachers, doctors, pastoral carers to key workers and friends too. Often the callers tell us that supporting someone they know who is feeling suicidal feels absolutely terrifying. Callers want to know the right and wrong things to say, what they can do to help someone they know to keep safe or where to go in an emergency. HOPELINEUK can offer this advice to concerned others that call us. We can give a safe space for concerned others to debrief, get support, cry, release their frustrations and talk about how they feel supporting a loved one who is feeling suicidal.
Across Carers Week, if you are caring for someone else and it’s leading you to experience thoughts of suicide or if you’re supporting someone who is suicidal, remember it’s OK to ask for help. It’s not your job to fix everything. If you think of a hospital, the patients are looked after by doctors, nurses, physios, kitchen staff, cleaners, pharmacists – a whole team provides the care. And it’s the same for carers – you can’t do it all on your own. So if you need help across this week or at any other time – call the HOPELINEUK team and speak to a Suicide Prevention Advisor. Let us offer you some support just as you willingly offer your support to others.