Informal carers of an adult with mental illness have asked that respite care be an integral component of mental health service provision. The present study involved a pilot investigation of the effectiveness of accessing respite care for carers of individuals with a mental illness. It was hypothesised that compared to carers who have not accessed respite care, carers who access respite care would report lower burden and distress, higher life satisfaction and better health after their use of respite care. The study used a respite care group and comparison group of respite care non-users with a pre- and post-respite assessment, and 3-month follow-up design. Participants were 20 carers recruited through carer organisations; 10 carers who accessed respite and 10 carers who had never accessed respite. As expected, the respite care group reported a decrease in burden, but unexpectedly also reported an increase in stress, whereas the comparison group did not change over time. Further research is needed to explore the potential benefits and possible risks associated with different types of respite care using large samples within randomised controlled trials in order to inform respite care policy and service planning.