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Mental Illness

New Horizons strategy and consultation

The Department of Health has a 10-year strategy for mental health in England called New Horizons: Towards a shared vision for mental health. This impacts on mental health services, as well as the support carers should expect for themselves.

Read more about the strategy

Advice for carers

Mental illness affect one in four of us at some point in our lives, and covers a range of conditions, from the mild to the severe, which can leave sufferers confused and isolated, in turn leading to profound feelings of despair and even thoughts of suicide.

Depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, obsessions, phobias, as well as misuse of alcohol and drugs are but a few of the most common mental health problems experienced today.

The following provides a brief overview of mental illness with a focus on the carer's role; for a more in-depth look at the different aspects of mental health and resources available to you and the person you are looking after – including information about a carer's allowance and any other benefits you may be entitled to – browse the links on this page or use the Help for Carers search box.

Depending on the illness and its seriousness, the help and support provided by carers, friends and family can be of great importance when it comes to successfully treating mental health problems. Just remember there's only so much you can do, so be aware of your limits and the fact that your own life is important too – bearing this in mind should help to reduce stress levels for you and the person you care for.

Discussing the situation with someone you trust, e.g. a family member or close friend can be very helpful. Consulting the GP, psychiatrist, the care coordinator or support worker of the person you are caring for can help to clarify the situation, relieve any feelings of anxiety and perhaps even help find a way to help alleviate the problem itself.

In addition, the area of mental health is well-documented and researched, and mental health professionals should be able to assist you. GPs, Community Psychiatric Nurses (CPNs) and other professionals who are part of the Community Mental Health Team can look after people with mental health problems in the community. At times hospital care may also be necessary, and compulsory admission when the patient does not wish to enter hospital voluntarily but is considered to be in need of hospital care can occur under the Mental Health Act 1983 (England) and the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003, ensuring that they receive the help and support they need from mental health services, and that this care is well organised.

The area of confidentiality is an important one for carers and people with mental health problems they are looking after. Confidentiality issues can be complex and hard to resolve, not to mention frustrating. You may find yourself feeling that your efforts are not appreciated as even when you try to help you cannot get access to the facts or discuss the case with any of the professionals involved, leading to a feeling that you're 'damned if you do, damned if you don't'.

Together with the Royal College of Psychiatrists we have produced a leaflet, which aims to tackle the bulk of confidentiality obstacles you may face – you can download it here:

Partners in Care - Care and Confidentiality (111 KB)

If you have any difficulties viewing the above document, please see: Help accessing PDF files.

Indeed, Carers and Confidentiality was just one of a range of leaflets we produced with the Royal College of Psychiatrists, all of which can be found on our Mental Health Factsheets page.