Young carer's family with mental health problems

Stephanie is the eldest of five siblings from Bala. Her mother suffered with severe mental health illness and was institutionalised whilst Stephanie was young.

Stephanie has very clear memories of visiting her Mother in the rehabilitation clinics. Her mother remained hospitalised in a clinic in England for over a year where she was diagnosed with a personality disorder.

Stephanie and her siblings remained with their Father and Grandmother who has physical disabilities after suffering a stroke.

Stephanie is registered as a young carer for both her Mum and Grandmother at the age of nine and began attending clubs and trips. Her Dad was also registered as a carer for his Mother. Stephanie remained very close to her Mother always longing wanting to live with her, she was aware of her Mother’s suicide attempts causing her to be very anxious and fiercely protective towards her. Stephanie also had a close bond with her Grandma living in the family home, who despite her ill health took on the role as 'Mother' to her son’s children.

When Stephanie reached the age of eleven her Mother left the rehabilitation centre. Stephanie saw this as her opportunity to be reunited with her Mum, but soon had to accept that the relationship between her parents had broken down and her Mother would never return home. Stephanie's emotions came to the surface and relationships within the family became strained. Her Grandma often voiced negative opinions towards Stephanie's mother which left Stephanie feeling resentful. This resulted in Stephanie dealing with anger issues and she also began to self-harm.

Stephanie fought to live with her Mum but this was not as simple as she'd hoped. Social Services became involved to assess whether her Mother was capable of looking after her. In the meantime Stephanie became very unhappy at home and ended up in living in foster care. but over time her Mother became more stable and settled and it was decided that Stephanie was able to live with her. Stephanie moved to a new area, which that meant she left the carers service that she had been a part of. It also impacted her relationship with her younger siblings who felt very envious of her living with their Mother. Stephanie's Mother was now in a new relationship and pregnant. Stephanie supported her Mum through the pregnancy, through the up's and down’s and continued to be an emotional support to her.

She became very close to her step-dad and her new baby sister. However this closeness started to appear concerning. Stephanie appeared to have a crush on him. After a year of Stephanie living with them, her Mum and step-dad came to the decision that it wasn’t working out. Stephanie's Mum became pregnant once again and didn’t feel she’d be able to cope. The family managed to convince Stephanie (now aged thirteen), that it was her own decision to return to live with her Father and Grandma.

Stephanie switched places with her next sibling who now lives with their Mum instead of her. This has caused further tensions between the two sisters who are continually fighting for their Mother’s love and attention.

School contacted the carers service to let them know Stephanie was back. They organised a home visit to see the family. Stephanie now regularly attends clubs and trips and is having regular one-to-one sessions as her experiences have left her feeling quite mixed up. Although the relationship with her Father is good she is finding relationships with her Grandma and her younger sisters very difficult. She says her sisters were 'too young to remember everything and they don’t understand', and that her Gran will never forgive her for choosing her Mum. She is feeling the rejection now that her other sister has taken her place to be with their Mum. Arguments in the home between her and her Gran have been flaring and Stephanie has recently started self-harming again. It is clear Stephanie is in need of additional support. Referrals have been made to the school nurse and to Barnardo's for counselling.