Did you know that lots of young people (at least one in four) live in families where Mum or Dad has a mental illness? Chances are that one of your friends has a family member with a mental illness but hasn’t said anything about it.
If your parent has a mental health problem you may be wondering what support is out there for you. You might need more information about mental illness or want to know where you can get some practical help or counselling.
Sometimes people feel awkward or nervous about asking for help, but it’s worth it if it means less stress for you and your family.
Have you thought about talking to someone?
Other young people who have a parent with a mental illness have said that it really helped them to talk to someone who understands. Friends or family can be helpful but there’s no shame in asking for help from a professional counsellor or psychologist – that’s what they’re trained for and you can be confident they will respect your privacy.
A psychologist can give you a chance to talk about what’s happening in your family, give you ideas for how to relax, help you put together a Care Plan and listen without judgement. If you’re worried about your own mental health they can put your mind at rest or give you some ways to cope better at home. If you’re worried about your privacy ask about their confidentiality policy.
Who can I talk to?
- Speak to your school counsellor.
- Ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or counsellor.
- Call Headspace – Ph. 1800 650 890.
- Call Kids Helpline – Ph. 1800 551 800.
- National Carer Counselling Program – Ph 1800 242 636.
- Call beyondblue – Ph. 1300 224 636.
Which of these sounds like you?
Here are some things you could do to get help and feel more supported.
(Click each statement with the orange triangle to reveal info.)
In the dark about what’s happening with your parent? Wondering what’s wrong? Worried it could be partly your fault?
You need information – if your parent is unwell, it’s never your fault.
There’s some great information online. Here’s some reliable websites which are good to explore so that you can better understand your Mum or Dad:
- headspace – The national youth mental health foundation who help young people who are going through a tough time.
- Youth beyondblue – Information about depression and anxiety for young people.
- Reachout – Packed with loads of facts and info, stories, videos, blogs and forums to help you deal with whatever you’re going through.
- It’s Allright – Information about mental illness and parents with mental illness for young people.
- Kids Helpline – Includes web and email counselling, games, downloads, information.
Mum or Dad has a mental illness, but they’re doing well right now.
- Now is a great time to talk with your parent and find out more about their illness. You could make a care plan together so that you’ll know how to find help if your parent does become unwell. COPMI has a downloadable Care Plan template that you could fill out together. www.copmi.net.au/careplans
Feeling like nobody else understands what it’s like to have a parent with a mental illness?
- You may decide to tell your friends how you’re feeling. Maybe they don’t have the same experiences but they can still listen and support you. If you’d rather talk to someone anonymous you could call Kids Helpline for free – Ph: 1800 551 800.
- You might like to get together with other young people with similar experiences. Other young people have said they felt less alone when they talked to someone else families. Locate support groups for ‘COPMI’ kids here or find out about carer groups at Young Carers Australia.
Scared that you might catch your parent’s mental illness?
- Mental illness is not contagious so you can’t ‘catch it’, but having a parent with a mental illness might make you more vulnerable to mental health problems. Now is a good time to take care of yourself and be as well as possible. Take time to relax, do things you enjoy, eat well, exercise and get plenty of sleep. Steer clear of drugs and alcohol as they can trigger mental illness, especially for people who have a family history of mental illness.
Feeling stressed or sad most the time? Angry or anxious, not sleeping well or sleeping too much? Feeling very negative and wondering if you have the symptoms of mental illness too?
- You need to talk to someone who can help you to feel better. This might be your parent, a teacher, a school counsellor or another trusted adult. You could also talk to your doctor, psychologist, or visit your local headspace centre. It’s always best to seek help early if re worried about your own mental health. Check out headspace or take a look at Youth beyondblue for more information.
Doing a lot around the house or helping with your brothers and sisters plus your parent? It sometimes feels re the adult!
- Talk to your parent about how much you’re doing to help out. They might not realise you’re carrying such a heavy load. If you do have a role in caring for your parent, you may be eligible for young carer services including practical assistance and respite. You may also be eligible for assistance from Centrelink.
Getting behind at school, no time to do your homework and finding it hard to concentrate or get enough sleep?
- It can be daunting to tell your school about your parent but there are lots of ways your school could help you if you let them, such as extensions on assignments or extra access to computers or learning materials. Your information will be kept private unless there are concerns for your safety.
Mum or Dad is unwell, staying in bed a lot, doesn’t want to talk with you, or is doing things that are odd or scary?
- If you’re worried or alone or if your Mum or Dad isn’t well enough to take care of you or your siblings, then you need to call an adult to come and help you. That could be your parent’s doctor, a relative or family friend. Follow your Care Plan if you have one – it may be appropriate to call your local Crisis Assessment Treatment Team. If you feel unsafe or are worried your parent might hurt themself then call 000 straight away.