Critics of This Site: Don’t get your hopes up. It’s never going to happen.
But the evidence is there. Tally it up for yourself.
As a carer, I’m three times more likely to top myself than the national average, and know more about suicide methods than others might deem is good for me; and as a worker in the media I am also at higher risk.
While I have job security (in that nobody can fire me) I am also low-paid, and that is another contributing factor.
And then there is the matter of relationship problems and stressful life events.
Anybody who has been a carer will know that, at some point, even the most well-behaved patient (can anybody think of a better description of the person in care?) will lash out at their carer. It is frustration with their condition, taken out irrationally on the nearest human being.
With no regard for how the nearest human being will feel about it.
Mrs Mike recently persuaded me to read a couple of books about living with depression because, she said, she wanted me to understand her condition a little better. Part of what I read included the idea that, when a person with depression lashes out at another, it’s not them doing the talking; it’s their illness.
I’m sure that’s true.
But it didn’t feel that way yesterday, when I had to accommodate a visit from a repair person after a water pipe sprang a leak in the airing cupboard – which involved me shifting all the towels, bedsheets and goodness-knows-what-else out of there, along with all the shelving, and then putting it all back after the repairs (and how long will they last?) were finished – together with the usual household chores of doing the clothes washing, cooking, washing-up, and cleaning up behind her…
… only to be told in no uncertain terms that the house is a pigsty because nobody helps her out and I don’t give a **** [insert four-letter term of your choice] because I’d rather be upstairs playing on my computer.
For clarity: “Playing on my computer” is Mrs Mike’s rationalisation of the way I write This Site. Never mind the contribution it has made to awareness of government persecution inflicted on people with long-term illnesses and disabilities like hers; never mind the victories it has won against the same government; never mind the fact that revenue from the site has increased our income significantly and made her much more comfortable, if it’s possible to say that about a person with her many physical, as well as mental/emotional, illnesses. I’m “playing on my computer”.
Also deemed as “playing on my computer” is all the work I have done to protect Mrs Mike herself from the Department for Work and Pensions, which has been desperate to cut off her Employment and Support Allowance since the day she was first subjected to a work capability assessment.
“Playing on my computer” is all the work I have done to protect her from losing other associated benefits and no doubt “playing on my computer” will include any work I will have to do when she is finally assessed for the Personal Independence Payment, which I am sure the DWP will not want to pay her.
I can no longer count all the ways “playing on my computer” has saved Mrs Mike from harm. And I have no way of knowing how many other people may have been helped.
But, considering the way she treats me for doing it, I hope you can understand why I think “relationship problems” can be attributed to carers as much as construction workers – and also why “multiple stressful life events” should be, as well. If DWP harassment isn’t a “stressful life event” I don’t know what is – and everybody who has ever suffered the Department’s attentions knows its “multiple” nature.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining. I’m explaining. I know the things I do that take me away from Mrs Mike’s housework are important – if not vital – to our well-being. I even have other plans in hand to provide longer-term security – although, inevitably, they involve more “playing on my computer” that will continue to keep me away from the housework I should so obviously be doing instead.
And I am placid enough and patient enough, in my personality, to let the abuse flow over and around me without taking it too much to heart.
It still hurts, though – and if it hurts me, then it’ll hurt every other carer too.
Recently, it has been suggested to me that I am suffering from ‘carer fatigue’ and I certainly recognise some of the symptoms. I’ll need to deal with that somehow and I’m already actively examining ways to do so.
But I’m a proactive kind of person with the resources to make a difference.
Others may not be so well-placed.
Another aspect of this that I haven’t even mentioned yet is the prevailing atmosphere of suspicion and hatred against people claiming to have long-term illnesses and disabilities, and the way that reflects on their carers.
If the government/media/blokie-down-the-pub are saying the person claiming benefits for their condition is a scrounger – what does that make their carer? Right?
It would be hard to wrap up this article with a positive message because I’ve just made it clear that I’m not feeling positive about this situation right now.
That being said, people reading this article might consider doing a little to contradict the prevailing antipathy. All you have to do is, you know, be nice to a carer every once in a while.
After all – what’s the saying?
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” According to the statistics, that is triply true for carers.
The Office for National Statistics and the University of Bristol… looked at suicide rates among working age people between 2011 and 2015. Suicide is the leading cause of death in England for the under-50s.
Both male and female carers, who look after the sick, elderly and disabled, had a suicide risk that was triple the national average.
All workers in culture, media and sport had a higher risk of suicide.
The report listed three factors that increased the risk of suicide.
The first was low pay and job security.
The second was “self-selection” where people at higher risk enter certain professions.
The third factor was that some jobs increased the access to and knowledge of suicide methods.
The report also made a point about… relationship problems and multiple stressful life events in the months before death [the article links this to the construction industry but in This Writer’s experience it could be attached to carers just as easily].
*Not just me, of course – no doubt there are others like me, although my situation must certainly be rare.
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