July 18, 2006

Australian Study: Helping Children of the Mentally ill

A new study in Australia suggests that the children of parents with a mental illness are the forgotten victims - but something can be done about it. Its unfortunate that we don't have any national programs like this in the US - however NAMI does seem to be making an effort in this area - and has classes for families of mentally ill adults (contact your local NAMI office to see if they are available in your area).

In this new study funded by beyondblue, VicHealth and the Victorian Department of Human Services it is recommended that services be boosted for young people, to help prevent the mental health problems of the parents, continuing in the children.

The Children of a Parent with Mental Illness (COPMI) project found an estimated one million Australian children live in a household with a parent who is mentally ill.

Figures also show that 40-60 per cent of these children, or about 500,000 nationally, are at risk of developing mental illness themselves.

The report recommended that it be mandatory for adult mental health services to find out if a client has children and plan their treatment with that in mind.

The COPMI project also got some of the older children to participate in leadership training camps where they could meet other people in the same situation, and recommended similar programs be available during holidays and after school more widely.

The Australian Associated Press reported:

Nineteen-year-old Tara, whose mother has schizophrenia, took part in one of the programs and said the peer-support program had helped her when she was struggling.

"It totally changed my life. It was very hard to see someone I was very close to go through so much. Now I am able to work through that stuff with people who know what I am going through," she said.
Victoria's parliamentary secretary for health Daniel Andrews said the government would take the findings of the report into account when planning mental health services.

"A whole range of opportunities can be lost and very substantial challenges can be placed in front of those young people and it is important as a government that we understand that," he said.

Among other findings, the COPMI report recommended that:

* Mental health workers acquire skills for working with children and their clients regarding parenting issues.

* Family care plans for larger scale trialling be undertaken.

* Further research be conducted to develop long-term improvements to programs.

* That programs for children aged five-to-seven be developed, trialled and evaluated.

There is a good list of resources and documents for mental health care workers who are helping mentally ill parents with children.

There are also many resources that would be valuable for families where one parent has a mental illness and the other does not. See the full list of downloadable materials here: Children of Parents with Mental Illness Reading Materials.

It also has a goodl list of resources for the children, teachers, and more - click on this link.

More information:

Children of a Parent with Mental Illness (COPMI)

AICAFMHA: promoting mental health for young Australians

Background information: Scoping Project on Children of Parents with a Mental Illness (report)

Australian Resources for Children of the Mentally Ill: Paying Attention to Self (PATS)

More reading on the topic:

Children with Mentally ill Parents - News Report

Improving Baby Mental Health - New Program for Parents

Childhood Emotional Abuse, Emotional Neglect and Schizophrenia

For children with a mentally ill parent, life is tough. But is there enough support for the growing number of children for whom parent-child role reversal is a reality?

Posted by szadmin at July 18, 2006 10:54 AM

More Information on Schizophrenia - Family impact


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