Time to Live for Mental Health Carers
A story by Support in Mind Scotland
We provided grants directly to carers who support those affected by mental illness living in Scotland.
What Time to Live for Mental Health Carers did
We contacted Scottish Womens Institute Editor by letter to ask them to promote the Short Breaks Fund, Time to Live Programme. They advised the letter would be printed in March/April newsletter. However, this did not happen which was disappointing. We did not advertise this year as previously the cost did not justify the small number of additional applicants. We used the current distribution list which is added to each year as we add any new staff who apply or whom we meet in the course of our work.
We also promoted the fund via our own carer support workers. We split the applications this year again into bundles for each of the panel rather than all of us shortlisting all bids. This worked well and did not result in any major queries. This was the year we tried to promote more imaginative short breaks and although we did achieve some shift in the balance between activities and holidays, the main reason for applying was for holiday breaks.
Money to buy a new guitar and take some lessons, "It definitely helped me to feel much better, I try to spend half an hour every day playing the guitar and learning some more tunes". "It helps me to distract from negative thoughts and feelings, concentrate on positive things, lift up the mood, and learning something new".
"The weekend allowed me to 'switch-off', so relaxing we went a really long walk on the Saturday great to be amongst nature". "It was sunny and we had such a laugh and went out on the evening". "Sunday morning we got out for a few hours too which was nice, however the weather changed dramatically, rain and winds so spent the afternoon watching TV and films in the room". "I never normally get to do that".
" I did gain the benefit I was hoping for, some time to be myself and think about myself".
A carer who bought some treatments to address rising stress levels, "The course of reflexology treatments helped me to relax and made a difference to my mood and general well-being. This effect will probably last a couple of months which should be beneficial to my health"
What Support in Mind Scotland has learnedThe fund has made a difference to our organisation because we have reached hundreds of carers who were not known to our organisation. In this last round alone, 80 carers were new to us. We learned from the carers direct experience how valuable even a small amount of money can be and we have used the evidence in thinking about our other services and we have developed activities to support carers.
What is clear is that it isn't just that money was provided that otherwise carers might not find, but the process encouraged people to think about having a break rather than just plough on trying to cope, it has been hugely encouraging.
The challenge we never cracked was to find people who could not benefit from away breaks to take up other types of activities. We did reach more carers this final round as we targeted the publicity in this way, but still nearly half of the grants were for breaks. Perhaps this tells us that this is what carers want but we know from our own experience that many carers find it so difficult to leave their caring roles for even a short time. This is something we need to take on as an organisation how do we help carers manage their stress and the impact on their mental and physical wellbeing?
We believe we have reached carers with complex needs and we know that this fund has been enormously beneficial. It has grown over the 4 years we have been funded to run the Time To Live and we know that many carers are very disappointed that the national scheme is not continuing as the focus on mental health helped them to have the confidence to apply.
We are concerned that mental health carers may not apply to generic local schemes; and if applying they may not be as successful. Our organisation cannot bid for the local schemes as we cannot provide generic services.