Caring for someone with mental health issues, while rewarding, can be emotionally and physically taxing.
More than 20 carers looking after someone with mental health issues, supported by VMCH’s Eastern Metropolitan Carer and Home Support Program, enjoyed a well-deserved break from their caring roles as part of an Autumn retreat in the Yarra Valley from May 28-30.
VMCH Senior Mental Health Care Advisor Leila Cai said as well as respite, the weekend at the Gawler Foundation’s Retreat Centre gave carers the important opportunity to meet people in similar situations.
Leila said most attendees cared for their children or parents with a mental health issue such as autism, anxiety, depression or schizophrenia.
“Caring impacts different people in a variety of ways,” Leila said. “For example, we support a mother caring for three children with mental health issues and autism who is unable to work due to her role. Most carer shared that their whole life revolves around who they care for and other family commitments such as cooking, cleaning and grocery shopping.”
Carers Victoria visited the carers to educate them on the mental health system and supports available, while VMCH staff provided some information sessions on cognitive behaviour therapy, de-stressing techniques and a progressive muscle relaxation exercise.
Movie nights, games, massages and walks in the surrounding gardens and bush lands were also on the agenda.
“Rarely are mental health carers putting themselves on the top of the priority list and hence it was very important that they were at the retreat to recharge their own batteries and not to burn out in their caring roles,” Leila said.
“Feedback from carers was positive with many describing the weekend as ‘tranquil’ and a great opportunity to connect with others.”
One carer said: “Thank you for providing such a lovely time for us carers to escape from our daily rituals and experience some peace and quiet, beautiful surroundings and friendship.”
The VMCH team is planning for their Winter Mental Health Carers retreats later this month.