The experiences and needs of carers during mental health crises: A mixed-methods study

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Helen Shann, Psychologist, Jade Sheen, Associate Professor, Clinical Psychologist, MAPS, Delise Francis, BNurs, BAppsc(Psych), GCert (Psych), PGDipNirse (Periop), PGDipPsych(Hons), and Jennifer Pohl. This work was supported by School of Psychology, Deakin University. 



One in five Australians will experience a mental illness in any given 12 month period. With limited inpatient facilitates available, the majority of these episodes will be managed in the community, typically with the assistance of unpaid carers (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2008). This study explores carers’ experiences and their knowledge of the resources available to them when they are managing a mental health crisis. Qualitative information was used to supplement quantitative data. A convenience sample of 71 carers (87% females) aged 18 years and over was recruited from carer services in Victoria, Australia. Of the sample, 65% (95% confidence interval 53%-76%) felt that there is not enough support when the individual in their care has a mental health crisis. Carers wanted greater involvement in decision-making during crises, increased availability of Crisis Assessment and Treatment (CAT) services, and more resources for effective management of crises associated with substance abuse. Carers also emphasised the need for affordable education and counselling services to help them manage crises and support them between crises. This study provides psychotherapists and other health professionals insight into the difficulties faced by carers in the community, as well as effective ways to support carers.


Keywords: mental health, crisis, counselling, education, carers


Address for correspondence:
Helen Shann