For the last 20 years Jane and her husband has cared for their daughter Sarah, who has schizophrenia. She worries about what will happen to their daughter when they are not around anymore.
Jane (69) and her husband came to the UK more than 40 years ago. They live in the north of England and have three grown up children. Their daughter Sarah was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the late 1980s and she is living with them.
Jane and her husband didn’t know much about mental health problems when their daughter became unwell. Although they noticed that she became withdrawn and that her behaviour changed in her late teens, they initially thought it was normal teenage behaviour. It took some time before they realised it was a mental health problem and contacted the doctor. After she was diagnosed, she was in and out of hospital and her medication was changed a number of times. This was a very hard time for the family. Jane says that they were anxious about leaving her at home when they went to work, and that life became full of worry. It was difficult to sleep at night as Sarah was very restless and kept them awake.
Jane says that back then, there was very little information available, and Sarah’s condition was never really explained properly to them. She thinks things are much better today, with more information and services for both carers and service users. She recommends that carers take part in what is offered by community mental health centres, such as opportunities to talk or activities that can take your mind off all the problems. She herself has taken active part in different kinds of mental health training over the years, and she has also given talks about her experiences. She believes the general public needs to learn more about mental health and illness to avoid some of the stigma and stereotyping that happens.
In addition to the support from community mental health services, friend and family, Jane gains strength from religion. She has a strong belief in God and says her relationship with him is what has helped her through the hard times.
Over the last few years, Sarah has become better. She is now much more interested in going out and doing things, in buying clothes and looking after herself. This is a great relief to Jane and her husband, and Jane says she and her daughter now have developed a good friendship and enjoy socialising together. Even so, Jane is sad that her daughter is not experiencing the love and relationships that most people her age are experiencing.
A big worry for Jane is what will happen when she and her husband are no longer able to care for Sarah. She says that they try to make sure Sarah becomes more independent, so now that she is better they have started to let her go to the doctor’s on her own, and they involve her more in household chores. The most important thing, Jane says, is to show her love and affection, and that she is an important part of their family.