Tool tackles impact of mental illness across generations
New research shows that a tool being used in Victoria can improve services for families impacted by a parent’s mental illness.
A parent’s mental illness can often have an intergenerational impact, according to the research paper written by Parenting Research Centre researchers Melinda Goodyear and Myfanwy McDonald, together with colleagues from the Bouverie Centre and the Families where a Parent has Mental Illness (FaPMI) program.
“For example, children may develop a heightened awareness of their parents’ symptoms, become burdened with caring responsibilities and may even develop their own mental health conditions through a mix of genetic and environmental influences,” they wrote in the Journal of Parent and Family Mental Health.
A family-focused approach
The tool – called the Standards of Practice and Audit Tool – encourages services to use family focused approaches. Family-focused practice views the person with the mental illness in the context of their family relationships. In addition, it considers all family members’ needs.
But the research paper said uptake of this approach by adult mental health services had been slow. Barriers include a focus on the individual client rather than the family, and administrative structures that create limitations.
The tool was developed as part of the FaPMI workforce development policy directive funded by the Victorian State Government, and led by the Bouverie Centre. It aims to reduce the impact of parental mental illness on all family members. And it does this through timely, coordinated, preventative and supportive action within adult mental health services.
Also, it incorporates essential and recommended practices to identify, assess, support and refer families where parents have a mental illness. It can address barriers to adopting a family-focused approach because it is designed for use in existing treatment models.
Improving family outcomes
The researchers said the FaPMI tool could help services and practitioners improve outcomes for parents with mental illness as well as help detect vulnerability among children early. It could also provide feedback to services about the benefits and/or missed opportunities for family-focused practice, highlighting “best practice” and practice challenges.
According to the researchers, the tool’s use in Victoria’s had demonstrated benefits including:
- providing an initial baseline snapshot of family-focused practice
- enhancing adult mental health service’s focus on identification, assessment and support for families where a parent has a mental illness
- generating data to help monitor changes in family-focused practice over time.
They suggested it was possible to apply it more broadly in Australia and internationally.
Find out more
- Read the paper in the Journal of Parent and Family Mental Health.