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Why recovery for carers, family and friends?

When the word ‘recovery’ is mentioned in mental health, it usually refers to recovery of the person with the mental health problem. When families and friends are mentioned in this context, it is generally in terms of how they can support the recovery of the service user.

However, we also know that coping with the mental health problems of a loved one is challenging, particularly if the problems are severe and long-standing. Family members and close friends may be traumatised by such events as:

  • coping with odd behaviour – that may appear threatening at times
  • some of their contacts with services
  • seeing a loved one hospitalised against their will or taken away by police

and be generally worn down by years of caring :

  • We would not have chosen the life we have.’
  • ‘It’s like you’ve been hit by a train.’

Many describe a range of feelings such as grief, loss, anger and guilt:

  • I’d compare it to mourning … because I felt I lost my son’
  • ‘Out of control ….chaotic.’

Others mention issues with health services and professionals, often in terms of poor communication and not valuing or respecting their expertise as relatives, as well as confidentiality issues.

There is now a growing recognition that the concept of recovery is also important for carers, families and friends in their own right. Research papers and studies as well as evidence from caregivers own experiences, supporting the importance of recovery for carers, families and friends include: 

Recovery: a Carers Perspective, Centre for Mental Health and Mental Health Network NHS Federation, Machin, K & Repper, J (2013)

 ‘Voicing Caregiver Experiences: Wellbeing and Recovery Narratives for Caregivers’is a collection of narratives from caregivers both in Sussex and Scotland, as well as including some very useful resources on recovery and wellbeing for carers. This book was a joint publication from the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and the Scottish Recovery Network.

Do carers, families and friends think about their own recovery?  – Meriden Family Programme study

Helpful services for carers
Recovery resources for professionals