13 October 2022
Mind Australia’s new Family, Friends and Carers Support (FFCS) provides targeted support to young people who care for someone with mental ill-health or drug and alcohol addiction.
Being a young carer can be stressful, which is why it’s important they have access to targeted, timely support mechanisms. Young carers also have specific support needs, as Sofie understands better than most.
“As a young carer you don’t identify as a ‘young carer’ – you just think it’s your job,” Sofie said.
“Group supports and respite activities really helped me be my age. Mindfulness, art therapy and day trips helped me connect with other people my age. The one-on-one sessions were great for me as well, especially being able to relate to someone who gets it.
“My support worker was quite young herself, but she was more like a best friend; she was taking me to the gym, going op shopping and things like that to get me out of the house and into a routine.”
Sofie’s story of being a young carer
Sofie, now 33, has been a carer since she was at least 15-years-old.
“I think I was a carer beforehand but when I recognised I was doing this work I was 15. Even then I didn’t properly consider myself as a carer until I was 22 when my dad passed away and I saw it written on the power of attorney paperwork,” Sofie said.
Sofie – who is sharing her story as part of National Carers Week 2022 (16-22 October) - cared for her father while he battled cancer for seven years, as well as dealing with her own mental health challenges.
Sofie’s mother also developed severe anxiety and depression during her dad’s treatment.
“I was a carer for all members of my family– I was the youngest and most responsible and I needed to look after everyone,” Sofie said.
“Where I struggled the most [as a young carer] was isolation. I didn’t have a normal upbringing and I couldn’t get on with my life. I couldn’t take on employment and I didn’t have support to lean on.
“I haven’t been able to do normal teenage things because I prioritised being a carer first. I had no energy and time to be my age, and to focus on my goals. It’s put a big block on my progress.”
Mental health and wellbeing challenges
The pressures of being an unsupported carer, the passing of her father and a history of being bullied led to Sofie eventually developing severe anxiety and depression.
“The moment one of the people I was caring for was taken away I lost a lot of purpose,” Sofie said.
“I was very close with my dad, and throughout that period while I was caring for him I was severely bullied. I changed schools regularly before I started home-schooling, which led to me becoming quite isolated.
“Having those disturbing discussions with doctors and seeking safety and support; those traumatic events stay with you. I’m comfortable talking about it now but it has scarred me quite a bit.”
Sofie accessed mental health and wellbeing support through Mind Australia.
Group activities and one-on-one support helped Sofie develop connections with other people and increased her confidence - to the point she enrolled in university and started studying a Certificate IV in mental health.
Sofie loved studying - especially student placement – and for the first time in her life she felt on the right track.
Sadly, this meant Sofie spent less time at home and her family’s wellbeing suffered.
“My family declined because I wasn’t available to support them all the time.” Sofie said.
“Everything collapsed for me. I turned around went back home and saw it was a complete mess, so I tried to pick up the pieces again.
“At that time, I wasn’t getting any help from support services”.
Co-designing Mind’s Family, Friends and Carers Support
Sofie has been using her lived experience to help develop Mind’s new Family, Friends and Carers Support for young people.
This program offers young people aged 15-26 flexible services including after school support, individual support, peer support, groups and events, day trips and overnight retreats around Victoria.
By sharing her experience and her story Sofie, a member of Mind’s Lived Experience Advisory Team, is helping ensure these supports are relevant to the needs of young carers.
“I’m more than happy to share my story to help others,” Sofie said.
“I feel like I’ve been through all the stages; I’ve been well, unwell, bullied, a carer and I’ve dealt with the mental health system, but I wouldn’t change a minute of it – it’s made me the person I am today.
“Asking for help and support kept me grounded, and made me become a stronger, more resilient, better version of myself to deal with all life’s challenges”.
“My best advice to young carers is be proud. It’s a hard gig but you grow so much from it. Stay strong, make time for yourself and most important, don’t be embarrassed to seek help.”
Young carers interested in this program can call Mind’s Carer Helpline on 1300 544 660 for more details. Find more information for Family, Friends and Carers Support here.
If this article raises immediate concerns for you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders can also call 13 YARN (13 92 76) a 24/7 national crisis support telephone service staffed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.