New to the forum, really need some help please.

For information and discussion about benefits
Hello, I am in a difficult situation and would very much appreciate some advice if anyone has some time to spare please. I am feeling very overwhelmed and I don't know where to start.

My partner does not live with me at present due to problems in the past caused by his mental health issues. He turned to drugs instead of seeking help and that was unacceptable to me as we have a child, so we separated. He has been clean for over two years and we are a couple again, but I have been very cautious as I didn't want to risk everything falling apart again. However he has since sought the help and remains clean.

Last June he was admitted to hospital and was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, social anxiety disorder and psychosis. He is on anti depressants, anti psychotics, and other medications.

He was an inpatient for nearly 2 months, before coming out and returning to work. He has tried to juggle work, therapy, and other pressures, but he has been deteriorating recently and is now once again an inpatient. He is extremely unwell and it does not look like he is going to be able to return to work. His consultant has stated that he should not be working as he will keep returning to hospital if he does. He has been living with his parents who are making the whole thing worse with their mind games and toxic behaviour.

As he is not taking drugs, I feel the best solution is for him to move back in with me so I can look after him, and he can get away from the problems with his family which are contributing to his deteriation.

If I formally took on the caring role for him, what would our situation be? What benefits would someone with severe mental health problems be entitled to? He is going to need a significant amount of care and support once he leaves hospital, which I am happy to do.

As much as I absolutely think it would be the best plan for him, I can't leave myself and my daughter even worse off financially than we are already. At the same time I can't imagine abandoning him in the state he is at the moment.

So where do i start? I have been reading conflicting information about what we would need to claim. Would it be income support plus carers allowance for me, with him claiming pip? Or should we claim couples esa with the carers premium? Plus pip? Is he likely to be in the support group or the working group? Or have I completely got the wrong end of the stick and should be claiming something else?

I feel like I'm drowning in it all and I'm trying to keep afloat for our daughter, but I'm struggling. I have been holding him up for so long now anyway, but it's all falling apart.

Thank you for taking the time to read all this, and I really appreciate any advice. Thanks.
Hello Christina and welcome to the forum

I'm not the right person to answer regarding the emotional side of caring for someone with MH issues or the rights/wrongs of him moving back in with you - there are others here far better placed to answer and advise on those questions.

But with regards to what benefits you can/should apply for I think you should contact the Carers UK Adviceline team who are best qualified to answer you -
Need expert advice? You can talk to the Carers UK Adviceline five days a week, no matter where you are in the UK or how complex your query is. We do benefits checks and advise on financial and practical matters related to caring.

0808 808 7777
advice@carersuk.org
Open Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm

The Carers UK Adviceline also includes a listening service, there for you to talk through your caring situation with a trained volunteer who understands what you are going through. Available Mondays and Tuesdays, from 9am to 7pm.
(If you can’t get through on the phones (lines are often oversubscribed) then send them an email, they’ll usually get back to you within 3-5 working days.)
Thank you very much susie I will give them a call.
Christina, I do understand your impulse to take your partner into your own home and look after him there, but before you take that decision, as well as doing what you are doing now - which is exactly the sensible thing to do, ie, sort out the financial implications of the decision - please do also consider the 'long term' implications of what you are proposing.

I would recommend, speaking entirely personally, that you read all the posts in the Mental Health section at the end of the index here, to see what 'can' happen when someone takes on a partner (or in some cases an adult child) with substantial MH issues.

I'm sure I don't need to tell you that your first 'duty of care' is to your child, and ensuring they have a safe and stable and emotionaly 'calm' environment in which to grow up is essential. I'm the product of a family life that wasn't at all like that, as my mother had what was probably undiagnosed (this was in the 60s and 70s) paranoid schizophrenia, possibly bipolar (huge mood swings, and was genuinely convinced people were spying on her through the TV, tapping her phone calls, plotting against her, etc etc). Her mental illness totally and absolutely dominated my childhood, and although she loved me and my brother desperately, her instability made our childhood (and your adulthood), extremely difficult - and she destroyed any chance of happiness my father might have had.

Is there any chance your partner could live 'independently' in his own place, with regular access to you and his child, but not actually 'with' you. In any circumstances, caring for someone 24x7 (even if there is no mental illness dimension, but only physical illness) takes a HUGE and unrelenting toll.

Think of what things will be like not just this time next year, but this time in five years time, ten years time, twenty years time......

Love is a very powerful emotion, and enables us to do things we never thought we could find the strength for, but sometimes it simply isn't 'enough'.

Wishing you all the best possible, and I hope I haven't sounded 'too' despairing, but I do think it's essential for you to think as far ahead as possible, as to what your life might well be like, and the life of your child, if you take in your partner to live with you.

(That said, of course, it might work out brilliantly - he might' settle' and improve substantially)

If you do go ahead, maybe it could be on a clearly 'trial' basis, with an option on him leaving if things get too difficult.

(I'm sorry his parents are contributing to his ill state of mind - sadly, all too typical.)

Kind wishes at a difficult time - Jenny
Thank you ever so much for taking the time to reply jenny. I am so divided in my thinking when it comes to this situation at the moment. It is made more complicated by the fact that I myself was very mentally unwell around 7 years ago and he supported me through it. We were quite young and it was before we had our daughter, but he still stuck right by my side. This makes me feel as though I should be doing the same. However your points about stability for our daughter are absolutely valid and are most definitely at the top of the list for me.

His behaviour when unwell is not explosive as you describe, rather him just getting quieter and becoming more insular, so she is mainly unaware that anything is wrong. I have always done 99% of her care so she is always busy doing things with me. My main concern is the effect of his hospitalisations on her as she misses him dreadfully and obviously I find it very upsetting as I know the reality of what is happening.

It is so hard as I know I love this man, but I too question whether that will be enough long term when the circumstances are so difficult. There is no certainty anymore, I have no idea how our lives are going to turn out and that is very frightening.

I guess at this point I am just trying to work out what us living together looks like from as many angles as I can before making any decisions. I can only handle so many things, so caring for him, my daughter and my grandparents I can probably manage, but if you add in extreme financial worries, I'm not sure I will cope.

You may well be correct and the best idea is to live apart until he is much more stable, but I can't help but feel I am letting him down if we remain that way.

Thank you again for your thoughtful reply, I really do appreciate it.
I hope I wasn't too negative - it really is a very, very difficult decision to make, and I guess I'm the sort of person who always thinks that if a decision is very difficult then it's best to keep it as 'reversible' as one can (just in case!).

Maybe one of the key factors is the age of your daughter? You say she doesn't notice him going quiet (and that's definitely better than him 'exploding' I agree!), but that may change as she gets older.

This may sound contradictorary, but one of the 'benefits' (so to speak) of my being raised with an MH mum was that both my brother and I 'grew up' a lot faster than other children, and in a way, were far more mature than our peers (I think this may be true of many children in 'dysfunctional' families). We had, I believe, looking back, an understanding 'beyond our years', simply because we'd faced difficulties other children had not had to face. This made us very 'responsible' (of course, the downside was that we took on 'responsibility' for our mum in ways that no child should have to)(interestingly, my bro then 'overcompensated' by 'over-sheltering' his own children, to the extent that they have grown up with very little sense of responsibility at all!)(sigh).

Something (else!) to think about is what would happen to your daughter if, say, YOU became unwell (or worse) - would SHE have to become her father's carer? That would not be good - but then again, whether he lived with you or not, that risk might still be there?

Do you have other family (you mention grandparents, but they may be your carees rather than your 'consultants' alas) or good friends you can really talk all this through with?

My fear is that you end up 'carrying' far more people than you should, or are able to (and you mention your own problems too, from before). You say your partner stuck by you then, - could he do so again, do you think?

Speaking personally, I always think in a marital partnership the ideal relationship is not necessarily one in which both are 100% 'fit', but one in which each partner 'takes it in turns' to collapse/be collapsed on! So if your partner now is capable of supporting you again, should you need it, then that is good. What is not good is if he only wants to 'collapse' on you (if he has toxic parents, he may seek unconsciously to turn you into the mum he never had?????).

You say that working (being employed) is too stressful, but what will/does he do all day? I would argue STRONGLY that 'idleness' is not acceptable! He really must, for the sake of his own self-respect, and his own mental wellbeing, be 'usefully occupied'. OK, that may not be in an orthodox place of work, with all the stresses of timekeeping, expectations, other people etc etc, but he must 'do something' that is both useful and absorbing. He can't just 'live' off other people (whther you or the taxpayer). I'm a firm believer in 'from each according to their abilities' ....yes, his abilities may be reduced, but whatever they are, that should be the boundary of what they then do (eg, if he is a househusband in your home, etc, doing chores).

Mental well being is so bound up with activity - depressed people hide under the duvets and become torpid and 'imprisoned by inertia' which only makes them more depressed. Work (appropriate work) is therapeutic in itself, and will nearly always 'cheer one up' with a sense of some accomplishement. Exercise is vital, because it releases endorphins, and 'kind ness to others' is also good because it is so empowering. So, too, is constantly reminding oneself of what is good in one's life - 'counting your blessings' it used to be called (I think it's called Gratitude Therapy now) - because it emphasises the positive, and not succumbs to the negative.

In practical terms, when do you have to make a decision by? Are there any natural deadlines coming up?

In terms of your original question - the financial implications, have you got any clarification yet from Carers UK team of experts? (they say here that emailing is the quickest way to get through, as the helplines are so often engaged)

Wishing you all the best, and hope you find that you are making the right decision for the right reasons - even when there is no 'best' decision and all come with a degree of risk.....(!)