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Children whose parent has a mental health problem
20 May 2013

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has recently released a report, 'A picture of Australia's children 2012'.

Among many other issues it reports that about 15% of parents were affected by mental health problems.

When parents have mental health problems, children may feel very isolated and even guilty. They may feel responsible for their parent's mental health problem. It is often hard for children to talk to others about what is happening and how upset they are. They may think that people will not believe them or will call them, or their parents, names.

Parents with a serious mental health problem may not be able to care for their children or protect their safety adequately.

If someone in your family or whom you know is in this situation, your support is very important.

  • Children can be supported by other family members, friends, teachers, church groups, sporting coaches or anyone else who is trustworthy and whom the child knows.
  • Children may also need help from community support services such as child and adolescent services.

You can help by:

  • Letting children know that it is OK to ask you for help
  • Listening to their feelings and fears and showing understanding about what the mental illness means to them and to their parents
  • Helping them to find adults they feel safe with and whom they can ring for help if they feel unsafe or afraid or alone
  • Helping children learn ways to keep themselves safe, eg home safety, crisis emergency numbers
  • Making sure there is a good reliable person available at short notice to care for the children if their parent is unwell.

Related topic

Further reading

Australian Infant, Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health Association 'Children of parents with a mental illness'

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 'A picture of Australia's children 2012