Mental Health Week (October 2 to 10) is an opportunity to better understand mental illness, and how we can all support individuals and their families. Some states also celebrate Mental Health Month (October) to allow a full month of awareness-building events in the community.
Most people in the community are now aware that approximately half of Australia’s population will experience a mental illness at some stage in their life, and about one in five will experience some form of mental health condition each year. But are you also aware that around one in four of these individuals are parents, and that the experience affects their children and family in significant ways as well?
In fact, up to 23% of Australian children have a parent with a mental illness (that’s over a million Australian children).
The impact on parents and children
This month, we encourage you to think about the impact of mental illness on parents and their children.
For parents, mental illness can:
- make it much harder to complete the day-to-day tasks of parenting, working or managing a household
- have an impact on relationships within and outside of the family
- be isolating, a source of stigma and a barrier to seeking help
- challenge a family’s sense of hope about their future.
For children, a parent’s mental illness can:
- cause them to worry about their parent and what mental illness means for them and their family
- make it harder to balance caring responsibilities with maintaining their own childhood
- be confusing and challenge how they feel about themselves and their family.
Supporting children and families
Positive relationships are central to a sense of wellbeing for children. For this reason, we invite you to think, learn and talk about how you can:
- nurture relationships between parents and children, even during tough times
- connect children and families within their community
- help parents to talk with their children about mental illness
- support families when times get tough.
The following information can help to educate and support families who live with a parent’s mental illness:
- It helps to get an understanding of what’s going on. This set of short video clips for young people (aged 10 years and above) delivers information about mental illness in short, engaging clips. Find out what mental illness is, about different types of mental illness, and how a parent’s behaviour may be affected by their symptoms.
Family and friends