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Carers and depression

A study by Robert Cummins of the school of psychology at Deakin University reveals that carers who look after frail, disabled or mentally ill relatives suffer “extraordinary” rates of depression and have the lowest level of wellbeing of any group in society. Almost 40 per cent of carers were estimated to fall in the “severe” to “extremely severe” range of depression, and those caring for people with a traumatic brain injury and other types of brain disorder are no exception.  

While the term “depression” is commonly used to describe a temporary decreased mood when one “feels blue”, clinical depression is a serious illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts and that cannot simply be willed or wished away. It is often a disabling and affects a person’s work, family and school life, sleeping and eating habits, general health and ability to enjoy life.

Signs to watch out for

Sometimes, despite the best efforts, carers may start to show signs of depression such as:

  • moodiness that is out of character 
  • increased irritability and frustration 
  • finding it hard to take minor personal criticisms 
  • spending less time with friends and family 
  • loss of interest in food, sex, exercise or other pleasurable activities 
  • being awake throughout the night 
  • increased alcohol and drug use 
  • increased physical health complaints like fatigue or pain 
  • Slowing down of thoughts and actions. 

If you are experiencing these sorts of symptoms then it is important that you speak to your GP about it as soon as possible. Clinical depression does not just go away, and early treatment is much more effective than delayed treatment.  


Caring for a person with a traumatic brain injury is difficult, especially when there are challenging behaviours. Respite care is one of the most critical supports needed so that carers can get time away to relax. Other tips include: 

  • ask for help when you need it 
  • take time for yourself 
  • exercise, eat well and rest 
  • relax regularly 
  • keep up social contacts 
  • attend a carers group for support 
  • access and use available services 
  • acknowledge and deal with feelings.