Here’s some revealing comments from children living with parental mental illness on dealing with school…
8-12 year olds
- “Mum used to be really sad and talk about hurting herself, so I was worried about leaving her alone.”
- “My Mums cool, but sometimes she gets really sad and just stays in bed for days and won’t get up and get dressed or anything – I don’t know what to do.”
- “It would help if the others could stop teasing you – that they could know there’s nothing wrong – anyone could get it if they get stressed out – they could get it!”
- “I used to worry about my Mum acting really strangely sometimes and I didn’t want my friends to come over.”
- “It’d help if I had someone to take me to school on the days when Mum stays in bed all morning ‘cos I hate being late all the time.”
- “Every school should have a breakfast programme.”
- “We used to get scared when Dad threw wobblies and said really crazy things. He gets help now and he’s good fun.”
13-18 year olds
- “Mum has a problem which means she can’t handle leaving the house…That’s OK and I want to help her but I hate having to do all the shopping.”
- “I was always on edge leaving Mum alone when I knew she wasn’t well. Once she got some help I could relax a bit.”
- “School could be more lenient in assignment deadlines and realise the added responsibility the children have in caring for their parent and other children in the family.”
- “The school could assist by setting up after school study groups because it is very difficult to study at home.”
- “It is difficult to seek extensions with assignments because it is hard to explain your situation.”
- “I was lucky enough to have a great school counsellor at my high school. She helped me organise meetings with my teachers to explain my situation, got me involved in a support group and helped me find information on my mother’s illness.”
- “I used to be scared to go to school and leave Dad home alone because when he’s ill he can get really stressed out, but now I know there are people who can help him.”
- “I really love my Dad and want to help but sometimes I get so tired and confused with everything that’s happening – in his head and in my life!”
“It seemed sometimes that my teacher was the only who asked how I was – everyone else was just so worried about Dad.”
How can you help?
Teachers: Important information on how you can support kids in your class (and their parent experiencing mental health issues).
Support staff: Important things you need to know if you’re a school psychologist, school counsellor, guidance officer, pastoral care provider or student welfare coordinator to support kids at school (and the parent experiencing mental health issues).