A younger woman in a blue shirt hugs an older woman wearing a grey top.

Looking after your mental health if you are a carer

My name is Chris and I work for the CORE team which is part of the Work Well Network in Croydon. I am the current families and carers lead for my team having been in this additional role for several years. I have built up significant knowledge of my local provision for carers, friends and families of people who use mental health services. I have been a carer myself, so understand it from that perspective also.

With Young Carers Day coming up on 15 March and Carers Week due to take place on 5 to 11 June, I wanted to share some tips for looking after your mental health as a carer.

What is a carer?

A carer is someone, who, without payment, provides help and support to a partner, child, relative, friend or neighbour, who could not manage without their help. This could be due to age, physical or mental illness, addiction or disability. The term carer should not be confused with a care worker, or care assistant, who receives payment for looking after someone.

Anyone can become a carer; carers come from all walks of life, all cultures and can be of any age.

Many carers do not consider themselves to be a carer, they are just looking after their mother, son, or best friend, just getting on with it and doing what anyone else would in the same situation.

It is estimated unpaid carers save the government £193 billion a year and many are in financial hardship as a result. Carers, friends and family members are performing a valuable service to help keep the people who use South London and Maudsley (SLaM) mental health services moving towards recovery and it is important that this contribution is recognised and supported as much as possible.

Being a carer is sometimes a complex mix of emotions and everyone’s experience is unique. Our role as a parent, child, sibling, partner or friend will have its own challenges and rewards when it comes to being a carer and support for a person who uses mental health services.

Looking after your mental health as a carer


One of the key things carers need to consider is accessing support. Support may come from the wider friends and family network, but also may come from the range of organisations who are out there to help.

In many ways the carer is the key person – if the carer crumbles under the pressure of the caring role then everyone involved is impacted, so carers are vital.

SLaM and other mental health services are introducing the Triangle of Care which involves the user of mental health services, the family and carers involved with that person, and the people who deliver mental health services working in unison together rather than separately. The Triangle of Care will deliver better outcomes for everyone.

You can view the provisions for carers through SLaM on their website.

If you are receiving already receiving support from a service, it might be useful asking what support they can offer to carers.

Support available for carers


There are various carers support services available in Croydon, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark. Unfortunately they are not fully integrated and many operate independently from borough to borough.

There is a mix of statutory, local authority funded and charity sector organisations, which I will provide you some information about, organised by location:

National organisations 

  • SLaM Recovery College
    • The SLaM Recovery College provides a range of free courses on topics surrounding mental health. In-person courses are free to users of SLaM mental health service users, as well as staff and carers, while online courses are free to anyone, anywhere. Courses that might be of particular interest include their ‘facts and guidance for carers’ webinar.
  • MIND
    • MIND are a national mental health charity who have lots of information on carers. This article in particular could be of use.
  • Carers UK
    • Support for carers
  • Carers Trust
    • Support for carers
  • Citizens Advice
    • Support for carers
  • NHS
  • GOV.UK
    • Information on benefits available for carers
  • Barnardo’s
    • Support for young carers
  • Family Action
    • Support for young carers
  • Young Minds
    • Support for young carers





Looking after yourself


To summarise, as with all caring, it’s so important to also look after yourself. Caring for someone with mental health problems can be extremely stressful and emotionally draining. It’s hard, but try and find time for your own health, relaxation and social life.

I hope that this information proves to be useful to you, it is by no means comprehensive – caring is complex and you may be looking after someone who is not in our locality in which case it might be wise to seek out local provision but by using a simple internet search term such as “carers support in (your area)” I am sure you will be able to access what is available near you.

Chris Finch - Vocational Specialist

Picture of Chris

My name is Chris and I have been involved with the Work Well network since the start of 2007. I currently work for the CORE team in Croydon as a Vocational Specialist. I have worked before in Southwark and Croydon in both community mental health teams and with Talking Therapies services. Before this I enjoyed a long work history in mental health support, having started in 1988 in a hospital setting in South West London. In my career I have worked for the NHS, Local Authority Adult Social Care and Mental Health Charities which has given me a lot of insights and experience. I have been employed in other jobs including retail, labouring, motorcycle courier and working as a refuse collector. I have also volunteered in my spare time using my many other skills, most recently with a local environmental charity. I enjoy bicycles and repair them for neighbours, people my local community and as a volunteer. I have two old classic motorcycles which I maintain and take for a spin whenever the weather is decent. I also enjoy growing healthy food on my lovely allotment.