This study investigates how public mental health policy addresses the role and needs of those who care for people with mental health problems. Public mental health policy recognises that carers are at increased risk of poor health. Countries want to ensure that mental health services are responsive to the needs of "carers'', that carers participate in the planning and implementation of services and that more information should be made available to carers. Respite care is recommended as a way to improve the health of both carers and service users. Unfortunately, policies only identify possibilities for intervention, and rarely identify specific actions to be taken or clarify who has responsibility for delivering interventions. Further the financial implications of the proposals and the need for additional trained staff are seldom discussed. Current proposals for helping carers are inadequate.