Sometimes circumstances can stop young people from sharing their stories, even when they have something important to say...

The following piece was written over a year ago by a young person who faces challenges as a young carer every day: he wrote a piece he felt was important, but his own mental health made him hesitate to share what he had written. Ryan still feels that there is a lack of overall information readily available on and for Young Carers in Northern Ireland, so whilst it has taken time to get to this point, Ryan has decided to publish his piece, feeling that the benefits of sharing his experiences outweigh his fears of doing so. Headliners is proud to support him in this.

Being a young carer is not an easy role, but sometimes the responsibilities will be taken on before the young person is aware of it. The role will arise in a number of circumstances i.e. a parent, guardian, sibling, or relative falling ill, mentally or physically, due to stress, substance abuse, situational difficulties, by having disabilities, or life limiting aliments. The young person may also take on responsibilities, due to parental loss of employment/circumstantial difficulties.

...many other young people who slip through the net, because of lack of access to support, lack of information, unwillingness to reveal that they are a carer or by not identifying as a carer.

This is even more prevalent for a young person, having their own stresses and worries, development and peer relations, whilst having to put them to the side to care for another. Trust me, I understand this, speaking as a carer myself who took up the role at 12 for my mother, when she had a mental breakdown due to stress, leaving her with depression, anxiety, and agoraphobia, and leaving me stressed, anxious and worried for her and myself. 

Wishing to hear what other young carers think, especially about how it is in Northern Ireland, and not just speaking from my own viewpoint, I got in contact with a youth charity with a young carers project/support network to be able to talk to a few young people on the topic. Fortunately, I was able to attend the 10th anniversary celebration of Action for Children’s Young Carers Support programme in Northern Ireland.

Speaking with young people, staff, and parents of the young people, I gained a greater insight on the responsibilities of other young carers. I made a connection, and felt empathy with the young people I met on the night. The other young people felt the same, one stating that, “It was very helpful meeting young people with similar problems”. I spoke to a mother of a young person who cared for his little siblings, and for her too, who said “from being in connection with young carers it’s been super for him” and that ”it’s all about him” with the project”.

I asked about the accessibility of connecting with projects and services involving other young carers; is help easy to find? Her response was “To be honest, unless you ask for it, no”.  This was very relevant for myself, only realising I was a carer at the age of 15, and having no idea what support was where. This is and continues to be much the same for many, many other young people who slip through the net, because of lack of access to support, lack of information, unwillingness to reveal that they are a carer or by not identifying as a carer.

Young carers, especially in Northern Ireland, have very limited access to support, and in many cases slip under the radar. This has to change.

Written by Ryan from Belfast. 

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