Society’s debt to our legion of carers

Crop carer

During Mental Health Awareness Week, Karen Martin asks us to think about carers

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14th May 2019 by TFN Guest 1 Comment

“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members” Very noble statement, but what about those who care and support such citizens, and do so with no, or very little financial gain?

During Mental Health Awareness Week, 13 – 19 May 2019, we are asking you to stop and take a moment to think about the impact of providing unpaid care has on the mental health and wellbeing of carers. How can you help reduce this?

In Scotland providing unpaid care is carried out by an estimated 759,000 carers over the age of 16 and 29,000 young carers (under age of 16).

This sometimes-invisible force of individuals makes up the third part of the care and treatment triangle for many people who require health and social care services, the other two parts being the person needing the care and treatment and the paid staff providing it. 

Karen Martin

Karen Martin

As a society we owe it to our army of unpaid carers of all ages the very basics of citizenship

However how many of us stop to think about the impact this unpaid caring role can have on the health and wellbeing of such carers?

Census figures show that 6% of carers surveyed stated they had mental health problems, compared to 4% of non-carers. 

Indeed, the Scottish Government stated “unpaid caring is a significant predictor of poor mental wellbeing and the presence of possible psychiatric disorder”.

Coping is Difficult, but I feel proud; perspectives on mental health and young carers research carried out by Scotland’s Children and Young Peoples Commissioner, found that young carers with the highest caring responsibilities tend to report more negative health effects, are generally less happy, report more stress-related issues and are more likely to report sleep difficulties.

Investing in carer health and wellbeing isn’t just nice to have in a strategy or piece of legislation; it makes economic sense.

It is estimated that the value of care provided in Scotland by unpaid carers is £10,347,400,000 per year. 

Imagine what would happen if even a fraction of carers became so ill they couldn’t carry on! 

It is vital that carers receive the support they require so they have a life of their own, out with caring.

Many carers don’t want to stop caring but that does not mean they should do at the expense of their health. 

Services need to reciprocate by identifying and signposting carers to relevant support organisations, such as local carer services, so that the right support is provided at the right time and in the right manner for carers.

At a time when resources are being stretched, more and more reliance is being placed onto families and carers. 

As a society we owe it to this army of unpaid carers of all ages the very basics of citizenship; the right to as healthy a life as possible.

For more information on health and wellbeing resources for carers, please contact Carers Trust Scotland at or call 0300 772 7701.

Karen Martin is mental health development coordinator at Carers Trust Scotland.

14th May 2019 by John

My wife and I care for our autistic adult son. 2 years ago when he transitioned to adult services our respite was cut by half. We are struggling to cope. My wife has since lost her job through ill health and I'll be cutting my hours next year. Carers are being forced into poverty and giving up their lives to care for loved ones. Its shameful.