A Carer’s Perspective on Mental Health

Mental health: there’s been a lot talk, from celebs sharing their battle with depression to an endless selection of self-care books available on Amazon.

The message of mental wellbeing is widespread, and it seems that almost everyone has a story to share. But, the most common ones we come across are generally first-hand accounts.

With stats showing that 72% of family members, friends or loved ones are acting as carers for those with mental health problems in the UK has suffered mental ill health as a result, the question arises: what about those who struggle supporting someone with mental health issues – where’s the discussion on this?

Lauren* is just one of many who feel unable to speak up about their second-hand experience with mental health.

“Psychotic episode, schizophrenia, bipolar–these were just some of the diagnoses she was receiving, but I didn’t know how I could be there for her and be strong for myself,” explained Lauren.

As a carer for a family member, Lauren had to balance her priorities, being her own person with taking care of someone at the same time.

“It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever gone through”, she says. “I always felt an unconscious conflict between my compassion for her health and the guilt of it all coming down really hard on me.”

A student at the time, Lauren explained how looking after a loved-one really took a toll on her studies and social life, which left her feeling anxious.

“I felt too guilty to find help for my own struggles,” Lauren recalls. “I often thought that my own problems seemed minor and selfish in comparison. She needed me, and I wanted to be there for her, but I felt stuck battling between my own mental wellbeing and being a support system.”

The Carers UK annual survey in 2015 revealed that out of 5,000 carers across the UK, 84% of carers feel more stressed, 78% feel more anxious and 55% reported that they suffered from depression because of their caring role.

“Every day was a learning curve for me as I started recognising the small indications of the emotional support she needed,” Lauren added.

She explains that it wasn’t just the psychological effects that became a struggle, but it was also physical barriers that became difficult.

“I think some people see mental illness as an invisible health problem, but it does take effect on someone’s physical state–there were times she didn’t want to get out of bed and I had to stay nearby to support her daily needs,” Lauren said. “I needed to make sure she ate, that she showered, and I really didn’t mind if it meant it helped–but I did forget what it was like to live my own life.

“It was a commitment and it takes a strong person to see a loved one going through a tough time and while I would never point fingers for the way it all happened – I just wish at the time that I hadn’t neglected my own emotional needs,” Lauren added.

Lauren wants others to know that being there for someone is difficult and it’s OK to admit it: “I know from this experience, I have learnt that it’s perfectly fine to feel the way I did.”

If you are struggling with caring for a friend or family member with any disability, Mind UK have a support network specifically designed to support carers’ mental health and Samaritans are always available to talk.

Editor’s Note: Lauren’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.

#YouTubeBlack: A Review

Last week in Washington D.C., the black community on YouTube were left overshadowed beyond algorithms, as the second year of the annual fan fest, #YouTubeBlack, took place.

Supporters of the event and YouTubers alike took to Twitter and their channels to display their excitement—but those who disagreed with the event used social media to prompt a debate on the intentions of #YouTubeBlack.

They accused the event of inciting inequality. However, the event was created to address the racial inequalities that currently exist on the platform. Despite the backlash, #YouTubeBlack is being positively recognised by the majority as a space for celebration of black contributions to the globally recognised platform—and there’s nothing wrong with that!

When individuals claim that #YouTubeBlack is exclusory, it takes away from what the event is trying to do–create visibility for black content-makers.

One Twitter user stated, “It’s segregating content specifically by black people for the enjoyment of black people. That is the opposite of equality.” This was just one of the accusations that divided Twitter users on the issue.

But what’s more is that for years now, black content creators have been battling to be heard amongst YouTube algorithms who don’t display their content as frequently as other well-known creators. This means that many black YouTubers’ content is being lost within their own platform.

Attendees of #YouTubeBlack, such as Kingsley (who has 2.9m million subscribers), De’arra & Ken (5m subscribers) and LaToya Forever (1.4m subscribers) are just some of the well-known black content creators who you are unlikely to see on the trending or recommended pages of YouTube, despite their large following.

This is just evidence of how creators of colour have fallen victim to platforms that use algorithms to promote video-makers, but have lacked in promoting the black community as equally as other races.

The majority of entertainers of colour we see in our trending pages are generally globally known and Grammy award-winning musicians, who don’t reflect all genres that black creators represent within the social platform.

By allowing events like #YouTubeBlack to exist, these voices can be heard. The annual fest not only gives fans the chance to meet their favourite black YouTubers, but also unites the voices of the new and existing generation of black YouTubers.

This allows more creators who believe they couldn’t make it because of their ethnicity to be inspired and grow. It’s significant to see more black people celebrating these front-facing roles as they support and encourage others within the community, spreading a message that their opportunities are just as tangible and equal as any other race.

With a demographic of 50 million creators on YouTube, many agree that #YouTubeBlack is about uplifting an overlooked community amongst the mass shared platform.

By allowing black creatives to thrive by celebrating, supporting and mentoring fellow black creators, they can gain recognition within and beyond their community.

As one Twitter user defends, “#YouTubeBlack was created to acknowledge black creators who are often stuffed under the algorithm. Black YouTubers do not get nearly as much visibility/opportunities as other races, yet are consistently the forefront of every trend. The initiative was created to help balance that.”