Statewide Equipment Program

You are here

Role of the family

The role of family in mental health treatment

Research shows that the best treatment results are achieved when the client and their family or close friends are all part of the treatment team.   In the case of a serious mental health problem, the involvement of families in treatments consistently reduces relapse rates and greatly assists recovery.  For these reasons, BHS Mental Health Services includes families in the clinical treatment processes, from intake to case closure.

Clients and their families receiving a service from BHS Mental Health Services can expect dynamic  engagement, active participation, collaborative care planning and targeted, clinical, evidenced-based treatments that promote recovery and early intervention.

To achieve active and meaningful family involvement – which occurs as part of everyday, routine  treatment delivery – the treatment needs to consider and address the needs of the family and their role in caring for the person with the psychiatric disorder. We will work actively to reduce the impact of the  disorder on the family as a whole.

So what does this all mean...?

Families should expect to be included as part of the treatment team.   Recognition of the psychological and social impact of psychiatric disorder is an essential part of planning treatment for recovery, and to reduce the likelihood of relapse.  Families should also expect to have explained to them the nature of their loved one’s disorder so they can participate in treatment and recovery.   This includes families being given the skills to manage the disorder effectively and confidently, helping reduce stress and impact on family life.

What should I do if we are not included as part of the treatment team?

Do not hesitate to discuss this with your Psychiatrist or Treating Clinician.

What about the children?

Being a parent is an important life role that  is highly valued by adults in our society, and within many  cultures is considered to be one of the roles that defines adulthood. People with psychiatric disorders tend to parent at the same rate as members of the general public and can be highly motivated to fulfil that role.

Parents affected by a psychiatric disorder can have a difficult time caring for children and providing them with a stable, predictable environment. Sticking to a regular routine or getting through the simplest day-to-day chores, such as shopping and cooking, can sometimes seem impossible. Within the family unit, a parent may find it hard to set limits and boundaries for their children because their own judgement can  be influenced by stress or confusion. In these situations, children often care for themselves more than they would in other situations, such as doing cooking, cleaning and shopping if there isn’t enough family support.

Psychiatric disorders can have severe symptoms, such as seeing things that aren’t really there, hearing sounds and voices and thinking that people or things are ‘out to get them’. When this happens to  parents, it can be very confusing and frightening for their children, who can’t understand their parent’s behaviour. Children can blame themselves and think it’s their fault.

They can also feel very frustrated and angry their parent is behaving this way.

All the things described above can affect a child’s development. Not only do parents need to be able to provide their child with food, clothing and shelter, but also teach their child about social skills, problem-solving skills, appropriate behaviour and emotional control.  With support and education, parents affected by a psychiatric disorder can parent just as well as anyone.

If you’re a parent affected by a psychiatric disorder and need some support, or worry that your child is being disadvantaged by your illness, it’s important you try and get help. This is especially important if you need to spend time in hospital, or are finding it difficult to cope.

If you are a friend of someone affected by a psychiatric disorder, understand that your support is very important to them. Ways you can help include:

  • Ask the family how best you can support them
  • Talk with the parent about their illness and ask if it’s OK to find out more. Discuss any symptoms and warning signs and how you can support them
  • Be understanding and let the parents and children know that they don’t have to manage on their own
  • Help the parents work out a network of people and emergency numbers they can contact if they feel afraid or alone, and
  • Be patient and non- judgmental.