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Who cares for the carers?

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  • Ian Pitchford
    FOR RELEASE: 1 DECEMBER 2000 AT 00:01 ET US Institute of Psychiatry http://www.iop.kcl.ac.uk/ Who cares for the carers? New research shows carers at risk of
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2000
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      FOR RELEASE: 1 DECEMBER 2000 AT 00:01 ET US
      Institute of Psychiatry
      http://www.iop.kcl.ac.uk/

      Who cares for the carers?

      New research shows carers at risk of mental illness themselves

      According to a new study from the Institute of Psychiatry, schizophrenia
      affects the mental and physical well being of caregivers from its earliest
      stages. The findings, published in the December issue of the British Journal of
      Psychiatry, are being used by the researchers to develop new strategies to
      support carers to prevent them developing further mental illnesses.

      Schizophrenia is a severe and often enduring mental illness. Since the
      Community Care Act in 1990, many people with schizophrenia are no longer in
      institutions but are cared for at home by their families. Previous research
      shows, however, that the stress of caring for someone with a severe mental
      illness can cause mental health problems in the carers themselves.

      The current study investigated how the first stages of psychosis, usually the
      earliest symptom of schizophrenia, affected carers. The caregivers (mainly
      mothers of the person experiencing psychosis) were often very distressed by the
      symptoms even though many admitted that caring could also be rewarding.

      Carers found that difficult behaviours - such as moodiness, suspiciousness or
      embarrassing appearance - and social withdrawal on the part of their relative
      was hardest to cope with. Many also had difficulties getting the help they
      needed from mental health services.

      At this early stage of their relative's illness, researchers found that carers
      were no more likely than the general population to suffer from mental illness.
      But those carers who lived with their ill relative visited their GPs more than
      usual, suggesting that even in its earliest stages, psychosis can be stressful
      for carers and that if unchecked, it can develop into more serious illness.

      Dr Tonmoy Sharma, who led the study, believes the study emphasises the
      importance of providing support and care for the carers. "The basic question
      is, who cares for the carers? This study shows that even in the earliest
      stages, caregivers become very stressed as a result of living with someone
      suffering from psychosis.

      "The NHS Plan now recognizes that carers should be given the support they
      deserve, especially because they may be at risk of illness themselves. We
      believe that with that effective support, it may be possible to prevent the
      mental illnesses in carers."
      http://www.eurekalert.org/releases/iop-wcf11300.html
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