Children of Parents with Mental Illness

children of parents with mental illnessUp to one in five children live with a parent with a mental illness.

There are different types of mental illness and different ways to treat them. At first it can seem pretty scary or confusing having a parent with a mental illness; but once you know more about mental illness it may seem easier to understand and less worrying.

Adults with mental illness can’t always cope with everyday living. Life becomes difficult for them, and for their families. Mental illness can last a long time and people can need a lot of help to recover.

Does your Parent have a Mental Illness?

If one of your parents has a mental illness they might not be able to give you the love and care you need including cooking meals, doing washing, or helping with homework. Sometimes they can behave in ways which are hard to cope with and which will upset you. It might also seem unfair that you are expected to do things that other people your age don’t have to do. It is normal to feel angry, sad, guilty, frustrated, and confused at times; as well as feeling hopeful, supportive, and loving toward your parent.

It’s important not to blame yourself for your parent’s illness, or be afraid that you will suffer from the same illness – it’s much more likely that you will NOT develop a mental illness yourself.

People who have a mental illness need help from a specialist mental health service, and their GP will usually arrange this. Treatment is aimed at helping them cope better and when possible, recovering from their mental illness.

Sometimes a parent will need to go to hospital to have treatment. If this happens, the GP will help you arrange to be with another adult or family so you don’t have to stay home on your own and look after yourself.

Support For You

You will cope much better when you know more about your parent’s mental illness.

It’s also really important to look after yourself. Talking about how you feel can really help, and this has nothing to do with how much you love your parent. Find out what works best for you – and remember everyone is different.

Talk to someone you trust – like family or friends, a doctor, school counsellor, youth worker, social worker, or a psychologist.

A professional can help you to understand your parent’s mental illness, how to look after yourself, and how to understand your own feelings and emotions. You will cope better when you eat good food, get some exercise and sleep, keep stress levels low, and have more energy. It will also greatly reduce the risk of you getting any mental health problems yourself.

A psychologist can help you with specific strategies for relaxation, and helping with troubling worries, feelings, as well as coping with school and home, friendships and family issues.

Remember if you feel overwhelmed, hopeless or suicidal, talk to someone and get help from a professional straight away.

You could also call Lifeline on 131114 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

Mia Olsson psychologistAuthor: Mia Olsson, BA Psych (Hons), Dip Nurs, AMAPS.

Registered Psychologist Mia Olsson has had a broad interdisciplinary role in the health industry for over thirty years, including hospital-based nurse training, and an Honours Degree majoring in Psychology. She has a particular interest in assisting clients with depressive disorders, anxiety, acute and chronic complex trauma, and health related issues.

To make an appointment with Psychologist Mia Olsson, try Online Booking – Loganholme or call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129.


The information on this topic page is NOT a substitute for proper diagnosis, treatment or the provision of advice by an appropriate health professional. Interventions are based on best available evidence integrated with individual client characteristics, current physical health, culture and preferences.