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

When you're unwell

When you’re unwell parenting can be more difficult and stressful for you and your child. With the right support, the entire family can benefit.

Get some help

mentally ill woman at doctor

Often parents with a mental illness worry they might be judged if they ask for help. However, there are many more people with a mental health problem than most people realise. People just don’t tend to talk about it. You don’t have to do this alone; there are people and services who can help.

To focus on getting better you may need to spend some time apart from your child, whether it be a few hours a day or a number of days to rest and regain your health. Asking for help is a positive move.

Centrelink assistance

If you have a mental illness and are unable to work permanently or just for a period of time, you might be entitled to Centrelink benefits. Completing Centrelink forms can be difficult as they're usually written for people with physical illnesses or disabilities, but a social worker can help. Sometimes a letter from your doctor or health professional to support your application can help too.

How will my children cope?

Children feel secure in routine activities and with familiar faces. If you’re finding it hard to maintain a routine, ask someone your child trusts like your partner, friends, a grandparent or teacher to give them the attention they need for reassurance.

If you need to spend time apart from your child, let others know about patterns and pleasures your child is used to so they can help them adjust.

Care plan discussion

Plan ahead

Planning or thinking ahead about what needs to be done on a daily basis helps with feeling more in control - and children find comfort in routines.

A care plan helps keep your family’s usual routine and provides some peace of mind with the knowledge that your children will be comfortable. The plan is a reference list for things to be done when you might need extra care for a while. It contains people to contact when you’re not well and notes to help your children feel as secure as possible during this time.

It's good to plan a few simple things ahead in case you need to take it easy. The following list offer a few ideas.

  • Have quick and easily-prepared foods on hand (fish fingers, baked beans, frozen vegetables).
  • Arrange regular child care so that you can rest or do something for yourself.
  • Keep a family diary with appointments, meals and telephone numbers somewhere handy, such as near the phone.
  • Create a family health diary (containing details of everyone’s health concerns) which can be accessed by the whole family, especially when you're not well.

Guides and extras

For immediate help

  • Speak to your doctor.
  • Call the psychiatric team at your nearest hospital.
  • Call Lifeline 13 11 14.
  • In an emergency always call 000 (this includes mental health emergencies).


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.