‘We want to reach as many of these families as possible’

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A FREE course aimed at those caring for family members who suffer from severe mental illness will run later this month.

Course organiser Stephen McCrimmon said that carers often find themselves isolated – even within the wider care community.

‘Carers of someone with a mental illness will often try to hide what is going on with their loved one because of concerns about the stigma that still exists and this leads to them withdrawing from friendship groups and even other family members,’ he said.

There are roughly 500 known carers for those with severe mental illnesses in Jersey but the true number is probably higher, and would include young carers, many of whom may not know how best to seek support, according to Mr McCrimmon.

‘All carers have their own story to tell but carers of Islanders with severe mental illness can face a complex situation where their loved one’s personality can change due to the illness and they feel bereft of the loss of the relationship they once had.

‘They can also find themselves frustrated at the system if their loved one doesn’t believe they need help and won’t engage with services.’

While discussion around mental-health issues has improved in recent years, there is still much work to be done and these carers need considerable support, he added.

Mr McCrimmon is executive director of Focus on Mental Illness, a charity dedicated to helping those with severe mental illness – which can include schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder – and their families.

He will be running the course alongside an experienced carer, who will talk about their experiences.

The eight-week course will be held at the Salvation Army on consecutive Saturday mornings from 9.30am to 11.30am, from 28h May.

‘We already have a considerable number signed up to attend this course but we want to reach out to as many of these families as possible,’ said Mr McCrimmon. For more information, email stephen@focusmi.org or telephone on 07797 710900.

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