New research shows three in ten adult UK carers think about self-harming

Almost three in ten young adult carers in the UK think about self-harming, according to new research.

According to research published today in the International Journal of Caring and Care, 28% of adolescent young carers in the UK think about self-harming.

The research was carried out by the Me-We Young Carers project in a study using data collected from 2,100 young carers aged 15 to 17 from Italy, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. Carers Trust was a key UK partner to the Me-We project, working with Network Partners to facilitate data gathering from 68 young adult carers across the UK.

The study raises serious concerns about the pressures and mental health impact experienced by young carers as a result of their caring responsibilities.

The study found that the adverse impact of caring on young carers’ mental health was particularly pronounced in the UK. 14% of all adolescent young carers in the Europe-wide sample said they had thought about harming themselves because of their caring role. But in the UK the figure doubled to 28%.

And 36% of young carers surveyed across the six countries said their mental health had deteriorated as a result of their caring responsibilities. But in the UK alone this figure rose to 56%.

The Me-We project research backs up research carried out by Carers Trust among young carers in the UK earlier this year. The Carers Trust research found:

  • More than half (53%) of young carers and young adult carers said the amount of time they spend caring per week had increased in the past year.
  • At least a third of young carers responding to the survey said their caring role resulted in them either ‘always’ or ‘usually’ feeling ‘lonely’ (33%); and more than 4 in 10 young carers said they ‘always’ or ‘usually’ ‘stressed’ as a result of their caring role.
  • 40% of young carers and young adult carers responding to the survey said they ‘never’ or ‘not often’ had someone to talk to at school about being a young carer.
  • 52% of young carers and young adult carers responding to the survey said they ‘never’ or ‘not often’ got support from their school, college or university in balancing study with their caring role.

Professor Saul Becker from Cambridge University’s Faculty of Education, and who is also a Carers Trust Ambassador, played a leading role in the Me-We research study. Responding to the Me-We research, he said in comments reported by the Press Association:

“A significant number of adolescent young carers are experiencing real difficulty, isolation and distress.

“The results do not mean they would actually hurt someone, but it is clear they sometimes feel desperate.

“That can manifest itself in various ways: they may get into trouble at school, think about hurting themselves, or feel as though they want to lash out.”

Carers Trust is calling on much greater support for young carers from the UK government. Specifically, we are calling for:

  • Greater priority to be given to young carers to access specialist mental health support services.
  • Much greater government investment in social care funding – this would mean the family members being cared for by young carers received greater support from specialist support, significantly lessening the caring responsibilities of young carers.
  • The Government to ensure that Local Authorities have the funding they need to implement their statutory duties to identify young carers and, following an assessment of their needs, give them the support they need.

Related news