Emily* is 18 years old and has been a carer for her mother her whole life. Emily was 13 when her mother experienced her first mental health crisis and was admitted as an inpatient.
I remember the ward seeming old and outdated, so it was really scary.
Emily has been the primary support for her mother since that crisis. However, she finds there is little consistency in how hospitals involve family in treatment and has generally found that ‘no matter what age, they never really listen to what I have to say’.
I am a big advocate for my mum. I have done it all my life. It was difficult when I was underage and lived at home by myself when my mum was admitted. I didn’t want to tell the hospital I was home by myself because I felt that it was going to get other people involved.
Following her mother’s first inpatient admission, the Families where a Parent has a Mental Illness (FaPMI) program connected Emily with young carer support services. This support provided Emily with respite away from her caring role as well as a supportive environment where she could learn more about mental illness with other young people going through the same experiences.
When I was in the young carers program I’d get movie tickets and they would organise outings for us. They took me out of my situation and gave me a little bit of respite.
FaPMI gave me a lot of opportunities both as a carer and a kid that has a parent with a mental illness. They ran programs over the school holidays for kids living with parents who have a mental illness to help us understand mental illness more. The programs are fun and you feel supported because everyone there has a parent with a mental illness.
Emily credits FaPMI with providing her with the skills and support to explore opportunities as a peer support worker.
FaPMI also gave me the opportunity to become a peer support leader. I have developed a voice because of the opportunities they have given me over the last six years. I have sat on panels and participated in a forum discussion with case workers and others working in the mental health system.
Source: Witness Statement of ‘Emily John’ (pseudonym), 15 July 2020.
Note: *Name has been changed in accordance with an order made by the Commission.