COPMI - Children of Parents with a Mental Illness - Keeping families in mind

How to cope

Teen researching on ipad in room

A good start is to find out about your parent’s mental illness. It’s also really important to look after yourself. Find out what works best for you – and remember everyone is different. 


Educate yourself (click to reveal info)

  • You will cope much better when you know about your parent’s mental illness.
  • Read about mental illness  on our website, or go to other great youth sites such as:
  • You could also call Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) and ask them for information.
  • Or make an appointment your local GP/doctor and ask them your questions.
  • Your parent or another relative may also know more about the illness than you do (although this isn’t always the case – sometimes they are as much in the dark as you are!) – don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Learn how to take care of yourself 

Learn about feelings and emotions - it helps! 

  • It’s ok to feel angry, sad, hopeful, frustrated or confused.
  • We all have feelings and emotions – it’s normal.
  • Understanding your feelings can really help you to cope and manage stress.
  • Guilt is a very common feeling for people who have a parent with a mental illness. Learn how to deal with guilt.
  • Anger is also very common and normal too, but you need to learn how to deal with it.
  • To help you, call Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) and speak to one of their experienced counsellors.

Talk to friends, or a professional 

  • Talking about how you feel can really help. Remember you are not betraying your parent if you talk about how you feel.
  • Talk to someone you trust – like family or friends, or consider a professional like:
  • Find out about these different professionals at youth beyondblue and ReachOut.
  • You can also do online or email counselling.
  • Remember if you feel overwhelmed, hopeless or suicidal, get help from a professional straight away.

Join a support group

  • Young people who are part of support groups have said this is one of the best things they did.
  • It can really help to talk to people in the same situation.
  • See links to support groups and programs in your local area - or call Young Carers on 1800 242 636 and they can help you find one.
  • You can also check out the section of our website about what else you can do to get help.

How to cope at home

  • The most important thing you can do at home is make sure you Learn how to take care of yourself (see link above).
  • The other key thing that will help at home is good communication. Learn how to communicate.
  • Try to keep up with your normal routine if you can. For example, if you usually play sport one night a week, you don’t have to miss out when your parent is unwell. See if someone else can assist in getting you there if your parent usually takes you.

How to cope at school

  • You family life can really affect you at school – making it hard to concentrate or get homework done.
  • Consider talking to your teacher or the school counsellor. Here is a story about someone who did just that and had a great outcome!
  • Read about how to get support and help at school.

How to cope at work

  • If your parent is unwell, work can be really hard.
  • You might need to take phone calls at work, take time off at short notice, not be able to work certain hours or days, or need to be flexible with your roster.
  • It’s good if you can have a chat with your supervisor or boss and explain your situation to them. Don’t forget to also tell them that you appreciate your job and will do your best.
  • You might be surprised at how understanding people can be.

Don't turn to drugs and alcohol!

  • It can be tempting to drink and do drugs as a way to escape your feelings or ‘relax’.
  • But this can make things a lot worse in the long run and actually affect your own mental health and wellbeing.
  • If you have a parent with mental illness it is more likely to affect your mental health than other young people, so it’s important to look after yourself.
  • Learn more about drugs and your mental health
  • And here is some extra information if you are interested, all about drugs and their effects.

Do you want to read more?

  • How to cope as a carer A great booklet from the UK Mind Infoline
    : this is a UK resource so the services mentioned are UK-based.




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