"40% of Carers suffer from depression..."
That was the headline on Radio 5 at 5.00am this morning as I sat in the bed in our spare bedroom, typing this post.
The news comes from the Royal College Of GPs. The newsreader has just added: "...at some point in their time as Carers. And can lead to problems such as strokes." So they are calling for us to be screened.
I woke up early by the way, because I'm not sleeping well just now, I tend to wake up suddenly. Have done for quite a while now. I'd taken ages to get to sleep, and that's become the norm too. As usual I lay there in the dark letting my mind go for walks around my problems.
I'd had a call from a Social Worker asking me if I wanted to attend a meeting of professionals to discuss whether Contact for one of my foster children should be reduced. I've never had such an invitation before and it's probably come my way because I kept a very precise diary of all the Contacts this child had to endure over a two year period, and documented how the "family" had disrupted the Contacts as much as they could. When I compacted it into a list on a single sheet of A4, it showed they failed to turn up on 30% of occasions, and were late by up to 20 minutes a further 20% of the times. They turned up with other people in tow such as "friends" or banned members of "family", passed contraband to the child, even allegedly did something to me that I can't divulge because it's subject to a police investigation.
After every Contact the child has a massive anger attack, destroying things, running away, self-harming, hurting us. Nobody else sees these attacks but us. You write in your weekly report "Child had a tantrum as a result of Contact" and it feels like you're being dramatic. How can you get across World War Three in a text box on a form?
So there I was at about 1.00am lying there in the dark picturing myself getting the law about Contact changed. I'm standing up in Parliament explaining what a stupid piece of legislation it is, and behind me the Prime Minister, The Education Minister, The Minister For Children and Families are nodding and going "Hear Hear!" MP's of all parties carry me shoulder high out into the sunlight where thousands of foster carers and social workers are cheering and waving banners saying "No To Compulsory Contact!". Now I'm on a loud hailer shouting "Sisters and Brothers, our threat to go on strike has been averted."
At some point I nodded off. And woke up to the news that 40% of us suffer from depression. Now, one of the many useful things I've learned from our training sessions is about depression. There's a tendency to think "depression" means feeling fed up, low, miserable. It can be that, it can also be all sorts of other things. It can be obsessive behaviour, it can be anger, it can be eating disorders.
It can be sleeping problems. It can be delusions.
On the radio I listened to an interview with an expert on depression among Carers. She said that GP's could identify it by asking us to fill in a questionnaire. Then she was asked how it could be treated. "Well," she replied, "There's no guaranteed effective treatment for depression, there are medicines in extreme cases. The best thing is get Carers to talk about how they feel."
I said to the radio; "The best thing would be if Carers didn't have their care sabotaged by bad Contact."
Here's the thing, if you're a Carer reading this and you're with Blue Sky, and you wonder if you're one of the 40% talk to somebody at Blue Sky. If you aren't with Blue Sky, talk to somebody, anybody, your GP.
I had a colleague once who played Sunday football and he was always coming in on Mondays limping or with a black eye. He reckoned that if he hadn't been wounded he hadn't played well.
I often think it's the same with being a Carer.
ps I heard on a later news that this report refers mainly to carers of elderly relatives at home. Mind, the 40% figure probably is about right for us...