Worldwide 57% to 81% of all unpaid family caregivers are women. Women are more likely to give up work so they can care for their family, with care taking up between 19 and over 100 hours a week for many people. It is estimated that 2.8 million Australians provide practical day-to-day and emotional support for someone they care about. Of those informal carers, around 240,000, or 8.6%, are looking after someone with a mental illness and that is likely an under estimate as carers often support loved ones with multiple difficulties. It was recently estimated that mental health carers save the Australian government in excess of A$13 billion every year. But this group is often unsupported and unpaid (with the exception of a Centrelink carer allowance, in some cases).

Research has shown carers often report high emotional distress, challenges with their relationships, engage in fewer social activities, feel lonely and isolated, and have fewer education and employment opportunities. So clearly is the link between caregiving and the chronic stress experience, that it is used as a model for studying the health effects of chronic stress. With care givers of people living with mental illness shown to be 7 times more likely to experience mental health issues themselves. 1

Evidence on the health effects of caregiving gathered over the last two decades has helped convince policymakers that caregiving is a major public health issue. 2 In the UK it was recommended creating a register of the UK’s 7 million carers to help the 40% of them who experience depression or psychological problems. 3

Caring has also been associated with immediate risk of mental health problems, with carers consistently reporting levels of psychological distress significantly higher than the overall Australian population.
Carers often neglect their own healthcare needs and, in many cases, it is only a matter of time before they themselves become ill. They are at risk physically and emotionally with stress-related illnesses, but it can be hard for them to admit that they are struggling until they themselves need a caregiver

From the age of 11 – 24 Becky was the primary carer for her terminally ill mother. She bathed her, fed her, dressed and carers for mother, who was also her best friend. After 14 years of love and dedication though, Becky began to wear out and started getting sick, a mild nervous breakdown later she moved from Adelaide to Brisbane in the hopes of a new environment would refresh her body, mind and soul.
On Jan 1st 2007 however Becky was attacked while walking to work, while she got way, the resulting PTSD was difficult to manage and by 2009 Becky was getting increasingly physically sick and struggling to walk. Misdiagnosed with just Stress and Fibromyalgia, Becky thought her illness was all in her head, in 2012 having already moved to Victoria, Becky requested to see a psychiatrist to get a thorough clinical diagnosis, with the support and dedicated care of her psychiatrist Becky was finally able to get a reliable series of diagnosis and through appropriate referrals, Becky learned she had Psoriatic Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Osteo Arthritis, Kyphoscoliosis, C-PTSD, MDD and complex gastro intestinal issues.

Today after years of successful treatments and comprehensive care through her medical team, Becky is thriving, living her fullest life, in spite of physical limitation. Becky is a strong advocate for consumer participation practices and patient advocacy services. she understands firsthand how childhood biography can become adult biology, and with that all that in mind founded the Empowered Health Network, a female focused patient advocacy organization dedicated to improving the lives of women living with chronic illness and disability along with their carers.
Sadly today “Women with an intellectual/psychological disability are nearly three times more likely than women with a physical disability to experience violence (15 percent compared with 5.2 percent) and women living with a physical disability were nearly twice as likely as women without disability to have experienced violence by a partner. And three in four (74 percent) women with disability experienced anxiety or fear for their personal safety following their most recent incident of physical assault by a male, fewer than one in three (29 percent) reported the incident to police out of fear of reprisal and discrimination.

Utilizing harm reduction and trauma informed client centered practices the empowered Health Network, focuses on the holistic advocacy of vulnerable and at-risk women in our society, empowering them to not only navigate the system but to so safely and supported.
  1. https://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/carers-of-terminally-ill-up-to-seven–times-more-likely-to-have-mental-health-problems/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2791523/
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/may/11/carers-monitored-mental-health-problems