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Key messages

  • Think beyond a parent’s mental health diagnosis. Think about what a parent’s mental health concerns might mean for their child and how it might impact their ability to keep their child safe and well.
  • Be curious about what life is like for the parent and child — both now and in the past. Work with the family to develop their sense of efficacy, to feel safe and supported and to create connections and networks that support their safety and wellbeing.
  • Most of the families you work with will experience multiple difficulties such as mental health issues, substance use issues and domestic and family violence. Think about how each of these issues relate and impacts on the other (the intersections). This will help you to discover what else you need to know and support your planning with the family to create safety and wellbeing for children.
  • People with mental health difficulties can parent well. Seek to understand and build upon a family’s strengths and what is working for the child. Think about how the parent can succeed and move forward.
  • Play a critical role in helping families and children where there are parental mental health issues. By taking a family focus can support the recovery of parents with mental health issues, foster resilience in their children and help the whole family (Children of Parents with a Mental Illness (COPMI): Child protection).
  • A person’s mental health can improve when they feel connected, empowered and confident in who they are. Work in partnership with them to build hope and optimism about the future.
  • Infants, children and young people can experience mental health concerns and mental illness.  Children who have experienced neglect and abuse are more vulnerable to developing these concerns.  Be aware of the role trauma has on emotional wellbeing of children.  

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