COPMI sponsored an examination of systems change in Australia associated with children of parents with a mental illness in 2008 and was a partner in a review of Adult Mental Health Nurses beliefs in 2005. COPMI was also involved in the steering committee for a Mental Health Liaison Project (MHLP) at Families SA (formerly Children, Youth and Family Services, CYFS), Aberfoyle Park District Centre during 2006.
Read the associated reports below.
The document Principles and Actions for Services and People Working with Children of Parents with a Mental Illness (AICAFMHA, 2004) provides a range of actions to assist systems and organisations to identify how they are, or potentially could be, involved in the provision of quality services to children of parents with a mental illness and their families (Chapter 4: pages 13-17).
In 2008 Dr Susanne Owen was contracted by AICAFMHA to undertake a critical analysis of systems changes implemented within Australia in the last 10 years that have aimed to enhance the mental health and well-being outcomes of children of parents with a mental illness and their families.
The study was qualitative in nature, drawing upon information provided by participant interview and documents of relevance to individual systems change processes. A wide range of organisations and individuals in the Australian states and territories and nationally were consulted as part of the study between June and September 2008.
In line with Dr Owen’s key recommendation, in early 2009 COPMI representatives met with nominees of State and Territory mental health departments to discuss the possible applications of Dr Owen’s change management and sustainability matrix within public mental health services. The documentation and case studies continue to assist organisations to assess their current progress and plan for future systems changes to better support children of parents with a mental illness and their families.
While many people who have a mental illness are also capable parents, mental health problems can affect parent-child interactions in a variety of ways. For example, parents with depression, when ill, are less able to be affectionate and responsive (Kowalenko et al.1999), and parents who have schizophrenia may have unusual or inappropriate affective responses to their child (Pope 1998). In addition, when a parent is affected by a mental illness, the family is at greater risk of experiencing relationship discord, discontinuity of care, poor general parenting skills, social isolation, and poverty and its sequelae, such as poor housing and lack of transport (Kowalenko et al. 1999). However, many families in which a parent is affected by mental illness are, or can be supported to parent their children effectively. These findings were catalysts for this research project.
This collaborative study between Flinders University's School of Nursing and Midwifery and the Australian Infant, Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health Association (AICAFMHA) used both quantitative and qualitative research methods to gather information from registered psychiatric/mental health nurses working in in-patient and community adult mental health settings in South Australia, about their beliefs and practices in relation to assisting their clients, who had enduring mental illness, to address parenting roles and family issues. It also sought to determine the nurses level of factual knowledge and practices related to that knowledge with regard to their statutory obligations pertaining to their clients children.
The Australian Centre for Child Protection conducted an action-research evaluation of the Mental Health Liaison Project (MHLP) at Families SA (formerly Children, Youth and Family Services, CYFS), Aberfoyle Park District Centre during 2006. The evaluation examined the views of workers, supervisors, managers and parents about what worked well, and what could be done differently, when including a mental health worker with child protection services. Using action research methods the information and recommendations from the first stage of the evaluation were used to inform and enhance the practice of the MHLP.
COPMI also sponsored the MJA Supplement ‘Parental mental illness is a family matter’ in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) Issue 6.