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The SANE Blog

'Discover More': How my brothers’ experiences with schizophrenia sparked my decision to become an advocate.

Sarah is wearing a blue jumper and leaning against a stone wall smiling at the camera.
Sarah Sutton is a sister, a daughter, a psychologist, and a sibling carer for her two brothers, both diagnosed with schizophrenia. For over eight years, she’s been a passionate advocate for increased recognition of the work of carers and their unique lived experiences.

This Schizophrenia Awareness Week, Sarah invites others to ‘discover more’ about her invaluable experiences as a carer, as well as a SANE Peer Ambassador.

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Avoiding Carer Burnout


Burnout and compassion fatigue are terms carers regularly hear when caring for someone with a mental illness.

There is no doubt that caring for someone can be a demanding, stressful and exhausting role. It's also common to be told to look after yourself and prevent burnout. But, at times it can be difficult to know when we are feeling normal pressures or when it’s something more.

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Feeling excluded from a loved one’s recovery journey


Experiencing a sense of helplessness can be a common experience for people supporting a loved one with a mental illness. It's natural to be alarmed by what's happening to your loved one and concerned about your capacity to support them.

This sense of helplessness can be exacerbated if you feel excluded from your loved one's recovery journey or unable to connect with them. Mental illness – no matter how severe or mild – can play havoc with a person's thinking, feelings and behaviour. It can cause distress and difficulty in functioning, and lead people to distance or detach themselves from their support network.

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What's in a name? Carer, supporter or something else?


'I never considered myself to be a carer until another parent of a young person with a mental illness told me that I was eligible for a carer's allowance.

'At that moment I realised that what I was doing for my son was beyond normal mothering. Despite not pursuing the carer's allowance, I felt good about the fact that my efforts were worthy of recognition.'

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Navigating the system


As a mother and carer of a son with mental illness, I've spent years traversing the system seeking care and support.

Over the years I've tackled education, health care, family and community services, human resources and at times the legal system.

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Worrying when away from a loved one


Supporting someone living with a mental illness can be a stressful experience. And it certainly doesn't come with an instruction manual.

For some carers, supporting someone means endless internal dialogue about the health and wellbeing of their loved one. Did they take their medication? Are they out of bed? Have they eaten? Showered? Where are they right now?

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My story: The glue that holds it all together


Carer . . . You may think this term implies solely supporting one person, but carers are also connected to a larger family dynamic. As such, carers often find themselves embroiled in complex situations.

We're frequently stomping out fires - in a state of perpetual conflict resolution - in order to keep the family stable and maintain a healthy equilibrium for all.

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Caring for a spouse with BPD


Fred and Cathy live in regional Victoria. Cathy has borderline personality disorder, and is supported by her husband Fred.

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The shift: from aspirations to managing what is


When my son first displayed symptoms I felt a desperate need to try and help him. 

Part of that need was born out of my own feelings of guilt. The remainder was fuelled my desire to alleviate his psychological pain.

Over the course of my son's diagnosis, there has been a huge shift in me. Initially I could not accept that nothing would help . I embarked upon a frenetic search for that illusive fix. I thought, 'Where did I go wrong? Why can't anyone help him?'

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Caring for someone with BPD: what it’s really like


Every relationship has its ups and downs, but when one partner is diagnosed with a mental illness, it can add an extra pressure. When your carer is also your spouse, it is important for both partners to look after themselves and each other. Todd and Natalie have worked together to manage Todd's mental illness since he was first diagnosed six years ago. 

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