Anne has been caring for her husband, who has severe depression, over the last four years. She has recently returned to part time work after having been a full time carer for some time. She believes it should be a requirement that health professionals listen to carers.
Anne is 40 and lives with her husband Adam and two teenage daughters. Over the last four years, Anne has been caring for her husband who is suffering from severe depression. Although not from a minority ethnic community, Anne feels that she belongs to a minority in religious terms.
Before his depression, Adam and Anne were running a small, independent ‘Born Again’ Christian church. Their lives were extraordinarily active and Adam was seen as a strong, resourceful pastor. In 2002 Adam ‘s health deteriorated as a result of a serious, but unidentifiable virus infection. After many months of being physically unwell, Adam also started to show signs of poor mental health. Their GP diagnosed increasingly severe depression and put him on medication. He has since also been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. When Adam got to see a consultant psychiatrist (after having waited for nearly four months while on heavy sedative medication) the treatment he received was also this time in the form of medication. They both felt very let down. Anne thinks the mental health care system is too oriented towards medication. She thinks other therapies should be available too and that it is crucial that carers are heard and take an active part as they hold essential information. Anne has often felt that if she is asked at all, the health professional only pay lip service to her views, and she has stopped coming with Adam to see his consultant because she is so angry about it.
As Adam was often unable to wash or even get out of bed, the responsibility for his care and for the rest of the family fell entirely on Anne. The Church had to be closed, Anne had to stop working to be able to look after him, and they got into debt. It has only been over the last few moths, as Adam has become a little better, that Anne has been able to return to work. After years of isolation she is also beginning to seek a social life again. But, as she says, caring has taken its toll on her so when she has a little time to herself she often prioritises getting some sleep or just relaxing on the sofa.
Anne has many times tried to get information and support for her role as a carer. She says that ‘I am not trained to do mental health work. They are’, and she misses professional feedback about how she is doing and how she can make things better. She has recently come in contact with a Christian mental health organisation, and she describes the practical help and support she receives from them as very helpful.
Anne advises other carers to find out what you are entitled to and to try to make yourself heard. This may mean having to ‘stamp your fist’ and speak up. She also thinks that listening to carers should be part and parcel of the work of health professionals and that they should be required to account for whether or not they have spoken to carers.
Anne is very disappointed by the lack of support from her Church. She disagrees with those who say that mental health problems are the result of lack of faith or sinful behaviour. The way he has been treated has left Adam very disappointed and he is now distancing himself from his religion. Anne says that her own faith has grown stronger through all of this and that her relationship with God is what helps her cope. She maintains this relationship through prayer, worshiping God, reading the Bible and going to church. Anne believes that God would have the power to heal Adam but that she will have to wait to see his reasons for not doing so, and she chooses to put his trust in him.