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Young people supporting parents with mental health problems: experiences of assessment and support

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The explosion of interest in young people as carers over the last decade and a half conceals the fact that there are still no reliable estimates of the number of young people with caregiving responsibilities. This is even more problematic in circumstances where the ‘looked after’ person has a mental health problem. In this study, we reflect on what can be done to identify, assess and support young people in these circumstances. We draw on selected findings from a study that has been examining the constituents of good assessment practice in work with family carers supporting relatives with mental health problems. The study embraces different carer groups but this paper concentrates on the experiences of young carers at one study site where Barnardo's and partner organisations had developed a joint initiative targeting young people who are looking after parents and relatives with mental health problems.

Following a review of the literature about young people as carers, the paper describes how Barnardo's worked to support them through its young carers projects. Based on face-to-face interviews with the young people (N = 10) caring for a mother with mental health problems, the main part of the paper provides an account of how they talk about, make sense of and evaluate the support they have received through this combined initiative. The findings underscore the value of one particular young carers project, and provide clues about what lessons may be transferable to other similar projects.
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Keywords: assessment and support; mental health; young carers

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK 2: University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK and 3: University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

Publication date: May 1, 2008

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