Today I will stand in the commons, with my Labour colleagues and do our job of reminding the other side to be nice. I will tell the story of lives saved in refuge and the lives lost without it. I will remind them that we don't all have a summer house in Cannes we can retreat to when hubby is being frightful. Nor can we just get a girl in to help if Mother can't get about anymore. Most of us don't have a private workforce to turn to when we are scared, or frail, ill or can't cope.
Cancer, illness, disease. It does change everything but when you finally stop and accept what is happening to your family, you can't help but reassess your priorities. Nothing else in life really matters in the face of something so huge. It's the patient who matters. It's the patient's family who matter. It's you who is important.
These people can be of any age, ethnicity or gender. They always put someone else's needs and welfare before their own, often without recognition or praise. Many have little chance to socialise, which can lead to isolation; and they have an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Who am I talking about? The UK's 'hidden workforce' of unpaid carers.
Imagine you're an unpaid carer. You look after a family member. You cook for them, clean their house, do the washing, and look after the finances. Done all that? Now repeat - only for yourself. In between those tasks you go out to work to pay the bills, make sure your children are ferried to and from school, and, occasionally, catch some shut eye.
If you are a friend or a loved one of someone with a mental health condition, you would know that it is not easy. You may have tried many times to help them but you seem to be failing each time. As worried as you are for them, you feel frustrated and hopeless. You may feel you cannot deal with them. So you give up and attempt to cut all ties and leave them. If you are friend or a loved one with a mental health condition reading this now, please do not give up on them.
Having an early diagnosis gives a person a modicum of control to plan and make informed decisions while they are able to. What's the alternative? Skipping those chapters of choice and jumping straight to the deepest part of the condition. That's cheating future generations out of quality dementia care.
It's a pivotal time for the care sector. As people live longer and require more support to live life to the full in old age, the shortfall in carers is expected to reach 718,000 by 2025. We need to rise to the challenges of our ageing population, but in order to do so, we need to challenge the frankly tired and out-dated perceptions of care.
Amongst the numbers, economic measures of contribution and technical policy analysis sometimes the stories and reasons behind policy can get lost. Policymakers - both elected and civil - should make sure they talk to people at the sharp end and heart of our care system, so that decisions are based on a full understanding of the realities for carers and their families.
My Dad is a carer - he cares for Mum. We're lucky in that Mum is relatively independent at the moment, she can do most things herself... Carers are incredible, they really are. They are hidden, hardworking and humble. Please try and notice them this week. Please reach out to them. If anyone deserves an hour of your time, it's them.
Ten years later, what are my reflections on my experience as a carer? First, I never saw myself as a carer. The word 'carer' implies forced responsibilities. I was simply and overwhelmingly John's girlfriend who only wanted the best for him. We had wonderful times together - cancer isn't all bad - and his illness only made us appreciate each other even more.
Mental health affects millions of people all over the world and whether you're caring for somebody who suffers from a mental health condition or you feel you may be suffering from a mental health issue yourself, one thing that is important is finding information that will help you to understand these conditions in more detail because knowledge is power.