Sharon Bunter is a family carer. She cares for her 26-year-old son who returned back to the family home after he experienced a major breakdown due to his mental illness in October 2015.
Sharon was having trouble coping with her new caring role and recalls taking her son to medical appointments, sitting outside in waiting rooms and thinking to herself ‘who is listening to me?’.
As Sharon reached out, calling multiple phone numbers to see what supports she could access, she was informed her husband’s work offered counselling for employees. After attending a session with her husband and trying to re-book for an individual session, Sharon was told her previous counsellor had left and she would now have to re-explain the situation to someone else. This left her feeling discouraged.
Sharon pushed the idea of counselling to the back of her mind for some time until she decided it was absolutely necessary and called up the service provider she had previously visited. Sharon recalls the counsellor advising her to turn her son out of the house but the comment only caused more distress.
“It wasn’t just me trying to cope with my son, I couldn’t cope with me anymore. My husband was getting to go to work and talk to people and I wasn’t going anywhere or doing anything,” she explains.
“Caring can be very isolating.”
For Sharon, her role as a carer became increasingly overwhelming once combined with family illness in England, her son’s violent outbursts due to his mental illness, and the family experiencing a robbery all in a short space of time.
Carers WA provides a range of supports and services to family carers including confidential counselling, workshops and training dedicated to helping carers build resilience in their caring role, by creating a balance between caring responsibilities and self-care.
Finding Carers WA
Sharon recalls searching online for carer supports after initial counselling through her husband’s employer did not fulfil her needs. Through Google, Sharon found the Carers WA phone number and spoke to an Advisory team member to register as a carer. It wasn’t until six weeks after that phone call that Sharon reached a breaking point and dialled the Carers WA Counselling phone line.
“I couldn’t go on anymore. I just couldn’t, I, I didn’t know what number was left to call, so I called Carers WA…I spoke to somebody that day for an hour.”
“The biggest thing about calling Carers WA was the feeling that someone did care about my feelings without judgement, and that I was not alone.”
Sharon began regular telephone counselling sessions after her initial counselling call and eventually began coming to the Carer Centre for face-to-face sessions. For Sharon that was a big step.
“A year ago I couldn’t leave the house!”
Sharon also attended several workshops and training sessions run through the Counselling team, including Mental Health First Aid and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training which she found both challenging and insightful.
“One aspect of the training taught me about listening for invitations and now when people talk to me, I’m hearing them…it’s making me feel a bit more confident.”
Today Sharon spends more time focusing on her wellbeing and exploring her comfort zone to ensure she is able to continue caring. This newly found determination led her to create a fundraising page on Facebook for Carers WA.
Through the page, Sharon hopes to help better other carers lives whilst she continues to better her own.
“There must be so many other people that are where I was, and if I can help them then it’s going to touch so many lives.”
Sharon recently concluded counselling sessions with Carers WA due to her change in outlook and renewed strength and resilience in her caring role.