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

Understanding and managing mental illness

Taking the time to understand your mental illness (or your partners) is critical to learning how to manage it effectively

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Understanding signs and symptoms

Taking time to understand the illness, its effects and treatment can be vital for you, your children and the ongoing stability of your family. With effective support and information, it may be quicker, but more importantly, you can continue to carry our your role as a dad.

It's important for the family to know the behaviour of the person with the mental illness may change throughout recovery. Taking time to understand as much as possible about the illness, its effects and treatment can be vital for the wellbeing of your children and the ongoing stability of your family.

What you can do (click here)
  • Know the signs. You and your family members are in the best position to notice any early signs of mental illness. By learning more about the symptoms, and developing a care plan, you may avoid more serious interventions like hospitalisation.
  • Research. Find out about the illness and the types of support and treatments available. Do this as early as possible to help you make decisions about what options can work for you and your family. There’s a lot of information on the internet about mental illness (see links overleaf).
  • Talk to your GP. Your GP or mental health worker to learn more about the illness, or to seek information on services and treatments.


Finding treatment

With ongoing research into mental illness, there are various talk therapies, medications and treatments available to alleviate symptoms and assist in recovery.

Finding the right treatment can take time. It may be something to decide with your partner. You should tell your health care professionals, including your GP, about any alternative therapies or complementary medication you might think of using.

Practitioners vary in their experience, preferences and recommendations. By informing yourself, you can make decisions in the best interests of you, your partner and your children.

What you can do (click here)
  • Read our information sheet to learn more about treatments. 
  • Get a range of information from GPs and mental health workers so you can make better decisions to treat and manage the illness.
  • Investigate treatments and medications to understand what works, any limitations and/or potential side effects. 


Should you tell others? 

Once you have a better understanding of the illness, it will be easier to discuss its effects and treatments with your children and other family members. Understanding it also helps you manage other peoples expectations too.

There may be a range of advantages or disadvantages in disclosing a mental health issue. Determining what is best for you, your partner and your children—considering their relationships too—will help you decide who to talk with about the illness. Possible advantages and disadvantages of disclosing your (or your partner's) illness are discussed under 'Should you tell others' in our Understanding & Managing Mental Illness information sheet.

What you can do (click here)
  • Decide, or help your partner decide, if disclosing a mental illness will be beneficial. This can be challenging. Talking to a trusted friend or mental health professional can help you with your decision.
  • Weigh up the advantages and disadvantages can also help you decide. Think about whether any of the points above might influence the person you are considering disclosing the illness to.

Living with and recovering from mental illness 

Learning to live with, manage and recover from mental illness is an ongoing process. Initially it can be a challenge to accept a diagnosis. Acceptance is a significant first step in the recovery process and can lead to understanding the value of treatment. This can help developing and sticking to a treatment plan.

Sometimes hospitalisation might be part of the recovery for some families. Being prepared for a first time hospital admission, or a repeat-admission, is something useful to think about ahead of time. A parent’s hospitalisation can have a significant impact on children and that can be reduced by planning ahead.

What you can do (click here)

Develop a care plan with your family. If a family member becomes unwell and is temporarily unable to participate in family life, a care plan can help everyone understand what will happen. Having a plan in place can help children feel secure and be prepared for changes, especially when they’ve been involved in developing the plan.

Find out if hospitalisation might be necessary at some point. Get as much information as possible about what to expect, and determine the best way for your children to stay in touch while you (or mum) are in hospital.

Be prepared. Find out about the mental health issue affecting your family, the treatment options and any related effects. Ask different health professionals for their points of view. Ask what you can expect.

More for dads



Need to talk to someone?

Are you a parent with depression or anxiety?

Help your family understand. Find out how to discuss mental illness with them.