Unpaid carers: The mental health crisis

Emily Whitton
By Emily Whitton,
updated on Dec 8, 2022

Unpaid carers: The mental health crisis

New data from the ONS reveals that a third of unpaid carers are experiencing depressive symptoms. Will Donnelly, co-founder of Lottie, shares his thoughts

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that as many as one in three unpaid carers in the UK are experiencing depressive symptoms following the rising cost of living.

Recent economic difficulties in the UK have affected everyone across the country, but unpaid carers are being hit hard by the current crisis. 4.3 million people become unpaid carers each year and now, with one in three experiencing symptoms of depression, “we’ve reached crisis point”, Will says.

Will Donnelly is the co-founder of Lottie, an online marketplace for later living. After struggling to find a care home for their grandmother, Will and his brother Chris launched the company - a digital elderly care platform connecting those looking for care to the UK’s best care homes for a fair price.

The social care sector in the UK right now is severely damaged. It remains underfunded by the government, with little support for unpaid carers and often with poor working conditions. At the edge of breaking point, there has never been a greater need for unpaid carers to receive the support they need on a practical, emotional, and financial level.

Will Donnelly believes that this lack of support has caused the rise in unpaid carers experiencing depressive symptoms. “Unpaid carers provide £193 billion of the UK’s social care system each year”, he says. “They are a fundamental part of the UK’s healthcare system. With an ageing population, the number of older adults requiring elderly care support is only expected to surge, and it is time the Government placed the social care sector at the top of their agenda to support all carers across the country, both paid and unpaid.”

If you are a carer affected by the cost of living crisis and are in need of support, visit the Counselling Directory for more information. You can also find support at Carers UK and the Carers Trust.

There’s a lot going on in the world right now that can put a strain on our wellbeing, so it’s important to be aware of any changes in yourself, a partner, a friend, or a family member.

What should you do if you are worried about depression in yourself, or a loved one?

Will shares some tips on how to recognise the symptoms of depression, and what you can do if you feel that you may be experiencing depression.

1. Spot the signs

No matter what age you are, depression can affect you and your loved ones, so it’s important to be aware of the signs. You, or your partner, friend, or colleague may lose interest in activities they used to enjoy and become less motivated to spend time together.

Everyone’s experience of depression is unique, so it’s important to look for a change in behaviour and routine. For example, if you or your loved one is sleeping more, keeping up less with hygiene practices or dropping tasks and work, these could be signs that they are experiencing depression.

2. Open up

Don’t underestimate the importance of opening up about how you’re feeling. Talking to your loved one about how you’re feeling can help you to feel supported and listened to. Alternatively, if you are worried about a friend, family member or colleague, try to have an open and conversational chat with them and allow them to pace the conversation.

You can work together to find out the cause of what is making them feel the way they do and suggest different ways they can take care of their wellbeing. For example, making time for their interests and hobbies or joining a social group.

3. Create a new routine

A daily routine can help to support your wellbeing, especially in the winter months when the days are much shorter. For example, scheduling time for a daily walk, catching up with loved ones, and doing activities with friends can help to ease any worries caused by change. If you’re sharing advice with a loved one who is struggling with depression, help them to create a daily routine that works for their personal needs.

4. Seek professional support

Most importantly, if you’re worried about your mental health, you should speak to a professional, like your GP. And if you’re worried about a loved one, try to encourage them to get in touch with their doctor - offering to go with them to appointments can be really helpful.

If you’re a caregiver looking after your elderly loved one, you can also share your concerns with your relative’s GP. Explain your concerns clearly, keep to the facts and give examples.

Sometimes, talking with somebody you don’t know can be beneficial, by talking openly and honestly with no strings attached. It can give comfort to people knowing that they don’t have to see the person again.

Talking therapy is a great way to share your thoughts and feelings with a trained professional in a safe, supportive environment. Be sure you find a counsellor or therapist that you resonate with and who best suits your needs.

If you or someone you know would like to explore therapy for depression, or any other mental health problem, you can find more information on the types of therapy available and find a therapist on the Counselling Directory.

Read more about depression and how counselling can help.

If you are an older person looking for support with their mental health, visit the Counselling Directory.

Lottie is leading the global transformation to a modern and sustainable care sector, where care home living is designed to support people in their later years to live a happier, healthier and more fulfilled later life. For more information on Lottie, or to find a care home for your loved one, visit their website.

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