Carers are some of the most vulnerable to mental ill-health during lockdown

Kellie King Carer GatewaySM

Published Aug 16 2021

New estimates indicate that over 720,000 Victorians caring for someone with a disability, medical condition, mental illness or frailty due to old age are missing out on vital support services, with many unaware of the assistance available to them until they reach crisis point.

Merri Health has launched a campaign to raise awareness of Carer Gateway – a free national service designed by and for carers – to ensure carers in Victoria know they can access support as COVID-19 continues to impact daily life.

While COVID-19 has caused additional stress to all Australians, carers are particularly vulnerable to negative impacts on mental health, finances and wellbeing during lockdown.

The 2020 National Carer Survey revealed that half of carers in Australia were experiencing high or very high psychological distress last year, with one in three reporting high levels of social isolation. One in three respondents also reported that they never get time out from their caring responsibilities.

Caring Fairly’s COVID-19 Carer Survey found that an increase in caring responsibilities and a lack of respite and supports were common reasons provided by carers for the decline in their wellbeing during 2020. Many carers also cited financial stress as a key concern, with over a third reporting that they had lost some or all of their regular income throughout the pandemic.

As Victoria continues to face COVID-19 restrictions, Vicki Down, State Manager of Carer Gateway, is encouraging carers to contact Carer Gateway to access free services and support including counselling, coaching, practical help and respite.

“With the resurgence of COVID-19 in our communities, many carers may be feeling particularly overwhelmed and struggling to cope. If you’re stressed or know someone caring for others who could benefit from support, Carer Gateway is available to help, ” said Ms Down.

Ms Down said a major barrier to accessing carer support is the fact that many people in a caring role do not identify as carers.

“Many people don’t realise that they’re carers – they often view themselves as family members or friends simply supporting their loved ones. Because they don’t identify with the term ‘carer’, they don’t access the support available to them,” said Ms Down.

“At Carer Gateway, it’s our priority to ensure that all carers know that there is help available and, importantly, to make it easy for them to get support, especially when day-to-day life is impacted by restrictions.”

Carer Gateway has assisted more than 7,800 carers across Victoria since the service launched last year, and has recently launched a state-wide campaign celebrating the inspiring stories of carers. The campaign, ‘We’re here for carers’, highlights the importance of self-care and accessing help.

As a part of the campaign, Kellie King – a carer to her ageing parents, daughter with an acquired brain injury and grandson with autism – explains how common it is for family members to transition into carer roles and overlook the vital need for their own care.

“I think, deep down in my core, I always knew that I was in a caring role, but there was always this push back and resistance around wanting to identify as a carer,” Ms King said.

Kellie reveals that she eventually embraced her role as a carer and now acknowledges that help and support are an integral part to her wellbeing – a discovery that she made while seeking support from Carer Gateway.

When explaining the positive addition of Carer Gateway’s services to her life, Kellie expressed: “life doesn’t need to be so hard… [Carer Gateway] are amazing, they are supportive… Most of these people that I’ve spoken to have got lived experiences and it’s really made a difference.”

Anyone caring for someone with disability, a medical condition, a mental illness or who is frail due to old age is eligible for Carer Gateway support. 

To contact Carer Gateway, call 1800 422 737, Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm local time.