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Learn about a parent’s experience of mental illness

Find out the parent’s experience of their mental illness. Let them be the guide and be the authority for their experience. Think about the following points before and during conversations together.

Language is an important tool in your practice

Make sure your language is humanising and focuses on the parent’s experiences. Allow the parent to guide the language used to describe their mental health issue or symptom. If there is an opportunity, encourage the parent to think beyond their diagnosis.

See Stigma and mental health section in the Overview.

Empathy is key to collaborative relationships

Walk in the parent’s shoes and ask what life is like for this family. Use this empathy as a foundation for building a working relationship.

Listen to what the parent is saying

Let them know they are heard. Use active listening skills and show curiosity about what they are saying. 

Be aware of acuity and risk

If there are concerns a parent is unable to talk with practitioners, understand what is being said, or see the impact of their mental health issues because they seem very unwell (for example, they are extremely distressed, delusional, psychotic or suicidal), support them to access a health professional or if you are really worried contact emergency services on 000 (ambulance).

Further reading

Read the SANE Australia Factsheet ‘Is someone you know unwell?’ for examples of behaviours that might indicate a deterioration in someone’s mental health.

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