Meet the Young Carer – Chris Stephens

Meet Chris Stephens. Chris is a carer for his mum Kelly, who has Bipolar Disorder and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
6th March 2023

Meet Chris Stephens. Chris is fourteen, and lives in the Central West NSW town of Parkes with his mum, Kelly, and two siblings, Lexie (13) and Trinny (20). Like many boys his age, Chris loves his footy, his cars and his music. Unlike many boys his age, Chris is a carer for his mum Kelly, who has Bipolar Disorder and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Bipolar Disorder impacts a person’s mood and can cause extreme highs (manic) and debilitating lows (depression). Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a disease which cause extreme fatigue, sleep problems and pain. The combination of both these conditions means that at times his mum is very unwell, and it’s at these times that Chris has to step in.

“I help mum find her meds; I’ll make sure she’s taking them. Sometimes I’ll cook dinner and do the dishes, make the school lunches – anything she needs me to do. Mum has good days and bad days, some days she needs more help, other days I can just get on with …being a kid.“

When he is ‘being a kid’ Chris listens to music. He’s a keen guitarist (both electric and acoustic), his guitar hero is Slash, and his music genre of choice is metal – heavy metal!

He shares his taste in music with his mum, and they have been known to sit in the car together with the volume turned up to eleven (for the uninitiated, that’s pretty loud) banging their heads in time to their favourite metal riffs.

The Caring Journey

For as long as he can remember, Chris has been there for his mum, and over time, as he’s grown older he’s found himself taking on more and more responsibility.

“I’m happy to be able to support mum.  I can tell when I see her, what kind of day she’s had. Some days she can’t even get out of bed…”

Carer Gateway

Chris first heard about Carer Gateway through his Auntie. At the time he was struggling at school, and Carer Gateway arranged for him to have some maths tutoring. And later, when he was going through a difficult time, and really needed someone to talk to, Carer Gateway organised some counselling.  Although he found both helpful, what Chris has enjoyed most of all is getting out and meeting other young carers at young carer social activities and school holiday camps.

“I just love spending the time with other young carers. These activities have helped me get out of the house when I probably would have stayed at home…and it’s just really good to get out!”

“It’s much easier to connect with people when they are going through something similar to you…you don’t feel like you’re different because of the home situation…it’s not that we talk about being a young carer all the time…but it’s just good to hang out with people who know what it’s like…because they’ve been there too.”

Best Thing (about being a young carer)

“Knowing that my mum’s looked after.”

Hardest Thing (about being a young carer)

“Sometimes – depending on where I’m at in school, depending on where I’m at in the term, and if mum’s is not well, it can be hard to stay on top of the schoolwork.”

What Keeps you Going?

“Mum has a great sense of humour. She smiles a lot at home at that just shows me that what I’m doing is helping – that it’s worth it…that and guitar!”

Hopes and Dreams

“I have a few friends who also play [musical] instruments. I’m hoping that we’ll form a band and play gigs in the pubs around town.”

Top Tip

“Have a friend that you can talk to – have a close friend. Or maybe get involved in Carer Gateway and make some new friends. And if you’re struggling – ask for help!”

If you’re one of Australia’s 2.7 million unpaid carers, you can access practical advice and support by contacting Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737.

To learn more, or to register for support, call Carer Gateway today.

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