Ramila has been caring for her brother who is diagnosed with schizophrenia for ten years. She thinks carers and service users deserve to be treated with more respect.
Ramila is a 56 year and lives in London. For the last 10 years she has been the caring for her older brother Bharatbhai who is diagnosed with schizophrenia and who lives nearby. Ramila works as a carers support worker in a voluntary mental health organisation.
Ramila was born and raised in India. When she came to England at the age of 18, she didn’t know that her brother, who had been in England for a few years, was suffering from mental health problems. Even if Bharatbhai was unwell, the family didn’t speak about this and Ramila says that she thinks her mother always hoped that he would be able to live a normal life.
When their mother died and Ramila divorced, she became Bharatbhai’s main carer. The doctors have told Ramila that Bharatbhai will never recover. Ramila is not convinced this is necessarily true. She is also very concerned that the strength, warmth and intelligence of people with mental health problems should be recognised. She has felt tremendously supported by her brother, for example during the death of their father. She is full of respect for her brother, and says she doesn’t think she would have coped as well as he has in the situation which his mental health problem has placed him in.
Ramila finds her dealings with the health and social service systems frustrating. Tacit racism in the early days, the inability to share practical information about Bharatbhai’s health and the lack of home visits makes her role much harder. She particularly misses a professional perspective or confirmation that the decisions she as a carer makes on a day to day basis are the right ones. She feels that the responsibility for her brother rests entirely on her, and although she is capable of carrying this for now, she does not think it is fair, and she doesn’t know for how long she will be able to continue. Ramila also emphasises that other carers may not have the same personal resources and may have difficulty coping with absorbing all the stress and responsibilities, particularly those who live in the same house as the person they care for.
Ramila uses philosophy and her spirituality to help her cope with her stressful situation, which sometimes leaves her feeling very angry. She understands her brother’s -and her own- situation within the philosophical frame of reincarnation as a reflection on previous lives. She says that philosophy helps her to adopt a rational stance and she uses reason as a way of dealing with anger and frustration. Ideally, Ramila would have wanted the opportunity to travel more and explore different cultures and countries. Yet, she says, she can do a lot of exploration through philosophy and that, overall, she is content with the life she has chosen.