A growing number of young Australians are unpaid carers. Zakia Noori spoke to one family whose life was turned upside down by illness.
Hamid dreamt of becoming an engineer after graduating year 12. Jamli, his younger brother, hoped to become an electrician.
And their mother, Susan, wanted to find a job as a home-based cook.
But, in 2016, Hamid was diagnosed with schizophrenia – and down tumbled their dreams.
Hamid, restricted by his medical condition, stopped his studies. Jamil and Susan jointly became Hamid’s full-time carers.
Jamil, 18, had to give up his social life and career aspirations so that he could look after his brother.
And the story is not unique. According to the 2016 Census, 151,600 people aged 15-24 were young carers. Young people aged 15-24 years made up 16 per cent of the population aged 15 years and over, and represented almost one in 15 carers (7.1 per cent).
Without prior information about mental illness, Jamil and the family were shocked by Hamid’s mental health and his episodes of anger.
“I had no information about depression and anxiety,” Jamil said.
“I was shocked when he started to stay in the house and rarely go out. He stopped going to school either. I feel sad when I go to school by myself rather with Hamid last year.”
Hamid dropped out of school as his mental illness continued to have a dramatic affect on the family’s well-being.
“If one person is sick in a family it affects all members of that family. It is like if you have an injury in your body, the whole body feels the pain.” Hamid said.
Susan recognised her son was not well and sought help from her GP.
“I explained to GP what is going with Hamid … the GP told me next time when he gets angry call the control anger line or police,” she said.
“After hearing,what the GP said I saw the desperation in my son’s face and my heart was coming out of my chest. I wrote on a piece of paper, ‘I want to talk to you alone’ and showed it to our GP. Then he sent Hamid outside.
“I told the GP, ‘You shouldn’t have to talk like that to my son. I think he is suffering from mental illness’. That was when the GP called Hamid back inside and examined his mental status.”
Almost forty per cent of unpaid carers are experiencing chronic anxiety, a survey of carers has found. https://t.co/lA6d1K5oLl pic.twitter.com/FCJCo0dbci
— Carers Australia (@CarersAustralia) November 8, 2019
After the examinations, the GP referred Hamid to a psychologist. It was not easy for the family, especially Jamil, to confront the reality that Hamid had schizophrenia.
“Many times, I was at school and my mum called me to help her, to look after Hamid. I had to leave school,” he said.
“By the end of the year, I was very behind from my other classmates.”
Carers Australia has a support program for young carers. Further details can be found here.