Adults with severe and enduring mental health problems are amongst the most marginalised and vulnerable people in our society. In providing care for these individuals, mental health professionals may potentially overlook the fact that many of these people are also parents: • There are an estimated 50,000 – 200,000 young people in the UK caring for a parent with mental health problems. • Many of these young people will provide help and support for a parent. • Some of these young people will be providing care beyond a level that is appropriate for their age. They will be ‘young carers’. • This inappropriate level of care puts young carers’ own physical and mental health at risk. These children and young people may come into contact with a variety of professionals in their daily lives, and some will be known to mental health professionals, but the majority will be unknown either to statutory or voluntary services. Education professionals may come across many of these individuals, but may not recognise them. The young carers may not self-identify as young carers, and may not wish to identify themselves to others. Nevertheless, some degree of intervention is required, since young carers are likely to suff er problems with school, such as: • regular lateness or absence; • difficulty completing assignments on time; • disruptive behaviour; • difficulty developing friendships; • being bullied; and • leaving without any formal qualifications.
Away from formal mental health and education settings, many young carers are able to find help and support in one of the many young carers’ services that operate across the UK. These services may play an important part in providing young carers with an opportunity to fi nd: • respite from care duties; • leisure time activities; • one-to-one support; and • the chance to socialise with peers.
However, many statutory and voluntary services coming into contact with these carers may not feel confi dent in providing advice or support on mental health and mental illness. Hence, MyCare is an investigation of the experiences and needs of young carers aged 9-25 whose parent or parents may suffer from severe mental illness. It is an explorative investigation of the experiences of young carers of parent(s) with severe mental illness, their needs, and how professionals from a variety of disciplines respond to these needs.