Young Adult Award
Alisha Morgan, 20 from Penrhys is a full-time carer for her mother Heidi, who has a number of medical conditions including early onset dementia.
At 17, Alisha had her own mental health challenges and, paired with looking after her mum, felt she had no choice but to leave her college course. Life was tough and a difficult balancing act, and following the suicide of a family friend, Alisha became depressed.
She enrolled on a mental health first aid training course, which helped her find coping mechanisms for what she was going through. That course led to her finding the support to go back to college, inspired by the care she and her siblings give to her mum.
As a team, they take care of her mother every day, from managing her medication, cooking her meals to washing. Alisha said: “I had lots of experience taking care of someone who was really ill, so I thought why not make healthcare my career? I was fascinated by all the theory and science of it all. When you’re caring for your mother you don’t think about the tasks you do throughout the day, you just get on with it.”
Determined to forge a successful career, she is now working towards her Level 2 Diploma in Health and Social care at Coleg y Cymoedd with plans to be a paediatric mental health nurse.
She said: “The college is so supportive. It’s still really challenging and there are days when I sit in class knowing I’m going to get a phone call to say mum has taken a turn for the worse, or I’m thinking about the medication I need to organise. But they’re really flexible and understand my homelife.”
As well as caring for her mum and going to college full time, Alisha set up Ferndale Youth Club for young people, including those who have lost loved ones to suicide.
She said: “At my lowest, just after our family friend had committed suicide, I was caring for my mum and trying to keep afloat with my college work. I became extremely depressed. I was caring for my mum, then rushing straight to college. I never went out and didn’t have much of a social life, there weren’t many opportunities for me to talk about what I was going through.”
The youth club is open to people aged 11 to 25 She said: “Sometimes it’s hard for me to talk about things such as grief but it also helps me spot signs. We talk as a group or sometimes one on one, it’s just nice to know that you’re not alone and other people have similar experiences to you. “Running the youth club gives me some time and space on my own to chat to other carers or people dealing with grief. I’ve made so many new friends who I can chat to or check in with on social media. Being a young carer is all I know. It is hard sometimes, but you have to just keep going.”
She said: “I want to be a paediatric nurse specialising in mental health. I will keep on pushing to make my mum proud.”