Carers support group launches in Catterick Garrison

Members of the group on a recent nature ramble.

A unique project to support both military personnel and civilians in their roles as unpaid carers for people with mental health problems has launched in Catterick Garrison.

Catterick Carers Group aims to reduce mental health stigmas for carers through practical help, peer support and group activities.

“We are here to support armed forces households, but also want to improve the support on offer in the wider community too,” said deputy chief executive officer Claire Robinson, from Carers Plus Yorkshire (CPY), which is behind the scheme.

The group is part of North Yorkshire and York Community Mental Health Transformation Programme, which aims to improve community mental health services with the help of those with lived experience.

Research into local mental health support was carried out before the launch, with the help of focus groups, MIND and Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV).

Benefits of joining the group include:

  • Support to access statutory or community-led support within family environment
  • Contact with Carers Plus Yorkshire and TEVW staff in an informal setting
  • Peer support and new friendships
  • Support to take respite from daily routines and thought processes

Lauren Dowson, senior project manager with the transformation programme, praised the “innovative project”.

She said: “This work is important to the community of Catterick, and instrumental to breaking down barriers and making access to mental health services easier. It sets a high standard for the rest of the locality.”

A base at Catterick Community Hub, which is owned by the military but used by the whole community, was chosen as the group’s base – and the first meeting was held in the early summer.

“The group is not exclusively for veterans’ carers or carers of veterans. Catterick is a mixed community, and the group reflects that,” said CPY carer engagement advisor Karen Andrews.

“Sadly, there is still a stigma around mental health. Many with an illness, or those caring for someone with one, won’t open up in a general support group.

“Here, carers can benefit from peer support.”

The issue of mental ill health and the military is close to Karen’s heart.

She served for almost 15 years in the Army, and later helped care for her father when he developed Alzheimer’s.

“Training in the Armed Forces promotes self-sufficiency and a resilient mind set. Asking for help may not come naturally to some carers from the Forces community,” she said.

“We want to break down barriers to reduce stigma and let people know what support is out there for them. There is nothing wrong in seeking help or support at difficult times.”

Catterick Carers Group meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month and, in addition to the practical help and peer support on offer, it also provides a range of activities for members.

Future events requested by the carers include a crafts and Christmas wreath session in November and a festive quiz and get-together in December.

“We support carers who are looking after loved ones with a wide range of mental health issues, such as severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. We are here for everyone,” said Karen.

TEWV chief executive Brent Kilmurray added: “We are committed to ensuring that we are doing as much as we can to support our armed forces community and the wider community.

“We are working with people with lived experience of serving in the military and of using mental health services to help break down barriers to do everything we can to help people see that there is nothing wrong with seeking help or support in difficult times.”

*To find out more about the Catterick Carers Group call 01696 780872 or email karen@carersplus.net