Young Carers – A Day In The Life Of Me
Next week, Unique Voice will be launching their new Young Carers project across schools in Bristol. Looking ahead to the coming weeks, Sarah shares her thoughts about the importance and weight of this subject.
When I was in school I took for granted how much my parents did for me, I think all children and teens do at some point in their lives, yet there are a large number of young people out there for whom the roles are reversed. Many young people are living as young carers, helping family members who are dealing with conditions such as addiction, mental illness and disability.
Shockingly there are an estimated over 50,000 young carers in the UK- many of which are unknown to those who could provide them with the emotional support and practical help that they need.
I’ll be honest, looking back to my school years I don’t know how I would have dealt with such a significant responsibility alone. At that point in my life I got worked up enough just dealing with comparatively trivial issues such as getting my hair the way I wanted it every morning for school, or stressing out about the fact that I’d not done a piece of homework on time.
In truth, the closest I ever came to this role was at the end of my final year at university. During this time my Mum suffered a sudden and relatively severe stroke, leaving her in hospital and unable to fend for herself. As the eldest in a divorced family, I felt a lot of pressure to do all I could to help my Mum, be it fitting in hospital visits around my final exams or driving the three hours to her home twice a week in the ‘timeshare’ I arranged with her two sisters once she was allowed home. But even with others helping in the care my mum was receiving, I still felt completely overwhelmed by the amount that needed to be done, the logistics of getting it done, and the emotional stress at the situation itself.
As part of their extensive research into this project, Unique Voice have worked with several young carers who have helped directly with the script ideas and done a lot to improve our understanding of their situations. One of the most poignant comments I’ve heard throughout this process is that one of the young people claimed ‘I don’t want people to feel sorry for me, I wouldn’t want to change what I do.’
Perhaps it goes without saying that this attitude is both inspirational and moving, especially when we consider how much more complicated some of these young people’s lives must be. I’m not sure which would be more challenging, being thrown into a carers role all of a sudden, or not knowing any differently. Either way, it is my opinion that these young people should be commended for their dedication to their families. I don’t doubt that to many there isn’t another option,that others will not harbour resent, and that their roles have become over time instinctive and ultimately necessary. What they are doing for their loved ones is wonderful, but equally it is crucial that they are also receiving the emotional and practical support that they themselves need in order to ensure that their education, and indeed their lives are not restricted. Someone once told me that I was never going to be able to look after my Mum properly if I wasn’t looking after myself, and as much as it was hard to hear at the time, they were right. Support is out there for young carers and it is my hope that through this project we open their eyes to the things that can help them care for themselves as well as their family members.
Essentially this is why I am so delighted to be part of the team working on ‘A Day in the Life of Me’ which begins it’s tour of Bristol schools in late February.
Find out more about “A Day In The Life Of Me” here
Find out if the project can visit your educational setting here