In 1983, Jeffrey’s eldest son Nicholas was diagnosed with a severe mental health problem, schizoaffective disorder. The months and years that followed changed unimaginably the lives of his family, not only his wife Sheila but their two other dear sons. From reeling with the diagnosis and not fully appreciating what it meant they lurched from one crisis to another. Along the way they met some wonderful people who gave them the support knowledge and tools to set up this training charity.
Having been a pharmacist and involved with the National Schizophrenia Fellowship Jeffrey came to gain support from Jewish Care. He learnt that in the USA, work was forging ahead in training and supporting “Family carers.” In particular his cousin, a practising psychiatrist, told him about NAMI (National Alliance of Mentally Ill). Within weeks he was in contact with them, receiving pamphlets and videos and beginning to understand their framework.
One pamphlet that stuck out and perhaps was the catalyst for the charity was “What helps and what hurts.” It touched their core, outlining stigma, guilt, prognosis, dealing with professionals and education. They realised that they were not alone and these topics applied to many family carers.
“Our philosophy is simple; family, supportive friends, and carers want to do the best by their “loved ones”, they just need the help to do so.”
Through a circuitous route, via Syracuse and a particularly special woman, Sheila Legacy, who was running her own family supportive training courses with trained carers and professionals, Jeffrey trained in Canada and returned to the UK with her course to found the charity Mencare.
With no funds but a deep sense of commitment to change the knowledge and lives of carers, with the help of Jewish Care he received an award from the Kings Fund. From here he gained further funding from Unltd, the foundation for social enterprises and with the support and encouragement of his wife Sheila went on to develop the course even further.
Using the original premise of trained carers and professionals working together, the course was developed further and with feedback from our newly trained carers the charity name was changed to Caring4Carers. Since 2002, we have built a special relationship with Barnet Carers, a bastion of hope and support to carers, and have now trained nearly 300 people.
Our philosophy is simple; family, supportive friends, and carers want to do the best by their “loved ones”, they just need the help to do so. What we hope to provide, and strive to update our courses annually (based on carers’ feedback), is accurate, up to date information, with the opportunity for carers to develop skills and tools in a supportive non judgmental environment.
The course has been adapted and revised over the years based on feedback from carers and changes in approaches to mental health. The course provides opportunities for discussion and role play and uses a range of media to support the main objectives.