In recent years, there has been a lot more (much needed) discussion about the mental health impacts that living with a chronic or acute medical condition can have on the patient. Thankfully, that has sparked the introduction of many programs aimed at supporting the mental and emotional burden of living with disease.

But what about the mental health of those who care for patients? This Mental Health Awareness Week, I am reflecting on  the mental health burden and needs of our caregivers.

A new study released last week by the Canadian Centre for Caregiving Excellence (CCCE) Caring in Canada shows , that caregiving is taking a toll on our caregivers’ mental health.  According to the study,caregivers are feeling tired (47%), worried or anxious (44%), or overwhelmed (37%) because of their responsibilities.

University of Alberta researchers have raised concerns over the challenges faced by over five million Canadians who juggle caregiving responsibilities while maintaining full-time employment – with over 75% of that care being provided being unpaid. Increased caregiving obligations correlate with diminished work-life balance: employed caregivers who devote extensive hours to care face heightened risks of experiencing poor work-life balance and burnout.

This underscores the urgent need for enhanced mental health resources and more robust pathways for caregivers to access support.

HealthPartners’ 17 charity members understand the critical role caregivers play in the health and wellness of their loved ones, which is why they are leading in this space, creating support networks and programs for caregivers wherever possible.

MS Canada, for example, organizes 1:1 Caregiver Peer Support, monthly Virtual MS Caregiver Peer Group meetings, countless webinars on being a carer for someone with MS, and many other resources to help caregivers.

Parkinson Canada offers this book Care Partnering: Managing Parkinson’s Disease Together which delivers supportive, accurate information to caregivers, and references to other resources when navigating a Parkinson’s journey.

Cystic Fibrosis Canada offers caregiving resources for managing stress and maintaining one’s own personal mental health, while also providing province-specific information. And there are many other similar programs available for other patient communities.

 our society simply would not function without caregivers, so our health charities need our support and donations to deliver their critical supports for those caregivers. We need to continue to raise awareness to ensure that caregivers have the resources and services to support their caregiving responsibilities. This Mental Health Awareness Week, let’s take a moment to reach out, check in on, and thank the caregivers in our lives.