Our son Matt is 26. He moved home after he broke up with his girlfriend. We knew things weren’t going well for him. He stopped getting work. He’s a plumber.
Victor tried to encourage him to go fishing or come to the footy but he became very depressed and was drinking heavily and smoking marijuana. Things went downhill from there. I still remember the night he had his first psychotic episode. We ended up in Frankston Hospital. It was dreadful, really dreadful. They put him in a locked ward.
Lots of services swung into place at that point. I lost track of who was involved with what. It took about 9 months but eventually we got back onto an even keel with Matt’s mental health. Along with counselling, he’s been prescribed medication. This helped once they got the dosages sorted – but I was a mess having to deal with it all.
One day I had a call from a carer support worker (who I had been referred to via Frankston Hospital social work). I was really confused. I thought it was to do with another meeting about Matt’s condition. When I finally understood that she was calling to help ME, I burst into tears. I didn’t even realise how worn out I was and how much stress I had been carrying.
Two things stood out for me. Firstly, that this person listened to me, really listened about all our frustrations and how convoluted the system is.
The other was how little things can help. The carer support worker helped us understand the supports available for us and for Matt. I had no idea there were services to take some of the pressure off us. Matt is now doing better. He has moved into a share house and he has a worker who meets with him regularly to support him to get back on track and stay well.
Any kind of illness in a family never affects just that one person. There is a ripple effect on us all. Victor has tried but I think he was a bit overwhelmed too. I was so grateful we had a carer support worker. She helped us manage the worst of it.
We asked Karen and Victor how Carer Services helped:
Assisting someone with mental illness is not a straight road. There are no signposts. Our carer support worker helped us to make a plan and set some boundaries so that we didn’t feel so out of control.
They introduced us to a Carer Support Group which has been great to meet other people with similar experiences of mental illness.
Attending some carer events has helped us identify the importance of us taking some time out for ourselves.
Just knowing we can pick up the phone and ask a question or check on something – that other people know what it is like to parent a young person with mental illness is invaluable.