Young Carers Awareness Day took place recently and Anthony Murray has shared his story to raise awareness of the challenges faced by young carers in Northern Ireland and across the UK.
Anthony is 17 and is Head Boy at St Killian’s College Garron Tower and lives at home in the Antrim Glens with his mum and dad.
He explained that a young carer is “someone who looks after a person in their family. It doesn’t have to be a parent, it could be a brother, sister or another family member, who may have a disability, poor mental health or drug and alcohol problems.”
“My dad works quite a lot, which is why I have a big responsibility in helping to care for my mum, who has epilepsy. My role as a carer is not to help my mum out of bed or around the house, she is fiercely independent and doesn’t need help with any of that, it is only when she has a really bad seizure, that’s when she needs me. When my mum has a seizure, we know how to deal with that and we can cope with it, my concerns and worries are about my mum having a seizure when nobody is there to help her, when I am at school and my dad is at work.
“If she was to have a seizure when she is making a cup of tea, when I am there I can grab the kettle, but if nobody is there, that’s when she can really hurt herself. If we could just sort out a few things for my mum, then I think everything else would fall into place.”
Anthony has been part of Barnardo’s Young Carers service for over eight years and with the help of Barnardo’s he has been advocating on behalf of his mum for services needed in their local area. He recently addressed a meeting of non-executive commissioners at the Northern Trust, to share his story and explain the urgent need for support services for epilepsy.
Anthony said: “Being a young carer teaches you a lot about other people, it equips you to handle high stress situations because you deal with them every day. I am proud that I have got to the same place as my friends and I am doing well, despite everything that I’ve dealt with. All I want to be able to do is help other young carers to get the support they need.”
With a group of his peers from the Barnardo’s Young Carers service, Anthony recently created the ‘Me First’ booklet, a guide for young carers to promote their own well-being, access the support and relevant services they need. This booklet was created in partnership with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust and The Personal & Public Involvement Unit.
Anthony said: “The young carers service has played such a big role in my life, I can remember the very first time I went along and it’s been part of my life ever since. I would encourage any young carer to just ask for help, you don’t have to do it all on their own.”
To find out more about Barnardo’s support for Young Carers visit https://www.barnardos.org.uk/what-we-do/helping-families/young-carers