Being a Young Carer certainly isn’t unique to a specific location, time, economic background, or individual.
Illness, disability and addiction can happen to anyone. And when that happens, it’s often family members who assume the role of an unpaid Carer. This is never an easy task, especially for young people who must balance school, relationships and childhood.
But being a young person in the position of caring for a family member or loved one is more common than you may think. Whilst it’s difficult to attain a completely accurate figure, The Institute of Child Protection Studies estimates that there are two to three Young Carers in every Australian classroom.
So, it’s likely you know a Young Carer, or are one yourself.In fact, what Justin Trudeau, Emily Dickinson and Nick ‘The Honey Badger’ Cummins have in common is their status as Young Carers.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was a Young Carer for his mother, who suffered severe depression and mania before being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder later in life. What this meant for Justin, who grew up in a prominent political family, was a caring role centred on an illness beyond his understanding.
The stigma surrounding mental illness in the 1970s and 80s was ever-prominent, making his role exceedingly difficult given the absence of community support and acceptance. It wasn’t until his twenties that he understood the extent of his mother’s battle.
“I sort of look back and go, ‘Oh, of course that makes sense,’ but there was no vocabulary for talking about that back then.” Justin said of his mother’s illness1. He and his mother are now vocal mental health advocates.
Over one hundred years prior to Justin Trudeau was famous American poet and Young Carer, Emily Dickinson. Emily became a Young Carer in her early twenties, when her mother was diagnosed with a chronic illness that left her bedridden for the remaining 30 years of her life.
Emily took on the role of a Young Carer entirely on her own. In this role, she faced severe social isolation and rarely left the house. She became known within the community as reclusive, never married, and corresponded with others primarily through written letters. The poems she is known for today were only discovered and published after her death.
Most recent in Nick ‘The Honey Badger’ Cummins. What you may not know of the Sports-turned-Reality-TV star is that he’s one of eight children, raised by a single father. Nick cares for two of his younger siblings, who both suffer from cystic fibrosis. “Every day is a struggle , every breath is a struggle…constant medication, constant coughing, constant vomiting, just struggling just to keep afloat.”2
When his dad was more recently diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, Nick cut his rugby career with the Wallabies short to focus on providing and caring for his family.
The reason we don’t hear these stories more often is due to the lack of awareness of Carers, so much so that many Young Carers don’t even identify themselves as such. But being a Young Carer can happen to anyone. It’s important to understand you’re never alone, and that’s where we come in!1 https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/trudeau-opens-up-about-his-family-s-struggles-with-mental-health-1.2754971