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

When you're at school

Sad teenager

It’s normal to feel affected by your family life at school...

Remember that you don’t have to pretend you’re ok when you’re not. It's never too late to ask for help!



Problems can affect you at school

  • Have you had a late night because of Mum or Dad? You might be tired and find it hard to concentrate on any work.
  • You might keep thinking about your parent and worrying about them at home.
  • You might feel hurt by comments made, or be affected by rumours.
  • You might feel less like joining in and feel withdrawn.
  • You might not be able to complete your homework or school assignments.
  • You might be teased and bullied – or even be bullying other people if you’re feeling angry or down.

You can get help and support - no one has to know

  • Most schools have policies that allow you to get extensions if there are family difficulties.
  • Some young people even do year 12 over two years, because they have so much going on at home.
  • In most schools you can go to the school counsellor and speak to them privately about what is going on. Then they can talk to or write to your teacher for you – saving you all the stress of doing it yourself. Here's a story about someone who got some support from the school counsellor and had a great outcome!
  • If you don’t want to talk to the school counsellor, then what about your favourite teacher, the chaplain or school nurse?
  • In most schools there is also a policy of confidentiality - so that if you want to talk it is between you and them only. But if they think you or someone else is really not safe, then they may have to tell someone else.
  • If it’s hard to study at home you can often get access to a homework location out of home or study groups after school.
    Your counsellor or teachers can help with this.
  • Some organisations offer free tutoring if you need help at school and have a parent with a mental illness. Call the Commonwealth Carer and Respite Centre (1800 059 059) to see if this is available in your area.
  • If you don’t trust the staff at school you can go online to web or email counselling for teens and young adults at Kids Helpline or headspace.
  • Or call Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800).
  • See other information about how to get help.

What if something bad happens to my parent when I'm at school? 

  • Try talking to your parent about your concerns – tell them you are worried about them while you are at school.
  • One really good way to reduce worry is to have a plan for if something goes wrong.
  • Ask your parent what they would do if something went wrong and you weren’t home – they might already have an idea.
  • If they don’t know what they would do, talk with them about the following options:
    • Call a family member, friend or neighbour
    • Call their support worker if they have one
    • Call Lifeline (13 11 14)
    • In an emergency always call 000 (this includes mental health emergencies)
  • If you and your parent both know there is a plan in place for if something goes wrong, then you will both be able to stress less when you are at school. 


Here are some great factsheets to help when it comes to exam time:


Want to read more?




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